Viral diseases from food: How to protect yourself

Viral diseases from food: How to protect yourself

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Which viruses often lurk in food

When it comes to viruses these days, it's mostly corona viruses. With regard to food, SARS-CoV-2 does not play a demonstrable role. Most viral diseases related to food are caused by noroviruses, rotaviruses and hepatitis viruses. This way you can protect yourself from the pathogens.

On June 7, 2020, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) will be providing information on the four most common viruses in food and how to protect yourself from these pathogens. Above all, noro and rotaviruses as well as the pathogens of hepatitis A and E play the main role.

Protect simple rules

"If you follow the simple rules of kitchen hygiene, you can significantly reduce the risk of infection," reports Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, the President of the BfR. Most germs in food are sensitive to heat and are effectively killed when heated to 70 degrees for at least two minutes. Raw food such as salad and fruit must be washed thoroughly and contact between ready-to-eat and raw food must also be avoided (e.g. raw meat and salad should not be prepared on the same surface).

Where are noroviruses lurking?

Noroviruses can cause gastrointestinal disorders. Typical symptoms are diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The pathogen is often transmitted via uncooked foods such as lettuce, fruit and seafood. The virus can also be transmitted via contaminated areas or direct human-to-human infection. Even frozen goods like berries can contain noroviruses because the virus is insensitive to cold. In 2019, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) chewed 78,679 known norovirus infections in Germany.

Rotaviruses can be transmitted via food

Similar to noroviruses, rotaviruses cause gastrointestinal disorders, which are characterized by diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. According to the BfR, children are particularly at risk. In rare cases, an infection can occur through food. According to the RKI, there were 36,876 rotavirus infections in Germany in 2019.

Acute inflammation of the liver from hepatitis E

Hepatitis E causes acute inflammation of the liver in humans. In most cases, an infection is caused by insufficiently heated pork or wild boar meat. These animals are often infected with hepatitis E, but show no signs of disease. Therefore, pork should always be roasted completely, as the pathogens are not only distributed on the surface, but throughout the meat. According to the RKI, there were 3,725 hepatitis E infections in Germany in 2019.

Hepatitis A is mainly imported

Hepatitis A virus diseases are similar to hepatitis E liver infections. Doctors speak of an infectious jaundice. Hepatitis A viruses are rare in Germany. Most Germans become infected with the virus during a trip abroad - often through contaminated food or drinking water. In isolated cases, imported foodstuffs are also contaminated with hepatitis A in Germany. The RKI recorded a total of 873 cases of infection in 2019. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • BfR: Keep diarrhea and jaundice virus at bay (published: 05.06.2020),

Video: How to Prevent Coronavirus. wikiHows tips for staying healthy and avoiding getting sick (September 2022).


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