Following a hepatitis A outbreak linked with JB Christie bakery in Airdrie, NHS Lanarkshire has confirmed the number of cases has now increased from nine to 42.

Initial investigations carried out by NHS Lanarkshire linked nine confirmed and nine suspected cases of hepatitis A in north Lanarkshire to JB Christie. Health chiefs have now told British Baker the number of confirmed cases of the illness has increased almost five-fold.

JB Christie voluntarily closed the bakery and its two retail outlets in Airdrie and Coatbridge on Friday and Saturday last week and contacted businesses it supplies, asking them to withdraw their products from sale. The bakery said all its staff were tested and found clear of the hepatitis A infection, and the business reopened on Tuesday (2 May).

Announcing today (5 May) that the number of cases had risen to 42, NHS Lanarkshire said most cases have told investigators they recall eating food produced by Christie before mid-April, through its outlets in Airdrie and Coatbridge.

All 42 have had a medical assessment, said Lanarkshire health chiefs, adding that almost all patients who required hospital admission have now been discharged.

NHS Lanarkshire said investigation and assessment at the bakery indicated products produced and sold between Monday 20 March and Thursday 13 April may have been affected.

“We are advising anyone who ate bakery products produced by JB Christie between the dates, and who experiences symptoms, [a flu-like illness, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, abdominal pains or jaundice] to contact their GP or, if out of hours, contact NHS24 on 111,” said Femi Oshin, NHS Lanarkshire consultant in public health medicine.

NHS Lanarkshire has praised the bakery for its cooperation with the investigation, and today stated: “The bakery fully cooperated with our investigation and undertook additional control measures agreed by NHS Lanarkshire and North Lanarkshire Council, which enabled it to resume trading on 2 May.”

As an additional precaution, the bakery has voluntarily disposed of all its fresh ingredients and any food stuffs which could transmit infection.

In a statement issued today (5 May), JB Christie boss Andrew Chisholm thanked his company’s "loyal customers who have stood by us during this time and who have shown their support since Tuesday by returning to the store to buy the products our skilled bakers make and our shop staff sell day in day out."

He added: "We would continue to urge those with symptoms to seek medical advice and we would remind the public that one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the hepatitis A infection is good hand hygiene, that is thorough hand washing and drying."

What is hepatitis A?

• Hepatitis A is a viral infection, which leads to inflammation of the liver and can cause mild to severe illness.

• The symptoms are generally a flu-like illness, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, abdominal pains or jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes or skin). The infection will clear with time and there are no long-term effects.

• The infection can be caused by hand-to-mouth contact of something that has been contaminated by the faeces (stools) of someone with hepatitis A. This could be food or water or by putting the hands in the mouth. This is different from hepatitis B or C, which are blood-borne viruses.

• Almost everyone recovers fully from hepatitis A with a lifelong immunity. A very small proportion of people infected with hepatitis A could develop serious complications.

• A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis A.

• Safe water supply, food safety, improved sanitation, hand washing and the hepatitis A vaccine are the most effective ways to combat the disease.