A free two-dose hepatitis A vaccination program has been extended to further control cases of hepatitis A in Victoria.
The vaccination will now be free until 30 June 2019 for all men who have sex with men, people who have injected drugs in the past 12 months, homeless rough sleepers and adult prisoners.
Currently there are 211 confirmed cases linked to an outbreak in Victoria and two deaths. Of the confirmed cases, most are male and report male-to-male sexual activity.
"It is important that all eligible people get the free hepatitis A vaccine to stop the spread of this serious disease. Immunisation saves lives and protects others in the community," Dr Sutton said.
Hepatitis A is usually spread through touching objects or consuming food or water that has been contaminated by an infected person. Transmission can also occur through sharing injecting equipment or person-to-person, including sexual activity, and is not limited to men who have sex with men (MSM).
"It's important to wash your hands and your body after sex to help stop the spread of hepatitis A. Make sure you're using condoms and changing condoms between any sexual activity," Dr Sutton said.
"We also strongly advise any confirmed cases with hepatitis A against engaging in any sexual activity that could increase the spread of the virus."
The hepatitis A strains detected in this outbreak are similar to those circulating in Europe.
Since 2016, hepatitis A outbreaks among MSM have been reported in 16 European countries and across the United States. A similar outbreak was reported in NSW in 2017, and people in other parts of Australia are also affected.
It can take between 15 to 50 days to develop symptoms after a susceptible person comes into contact with hepatitis A. Adults who get hepatitis A usually develop symptoms, which include fever, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, followed by dark urine and yellow skin/eyes (also known as jaundice).
"People can be infectious and transmit the infection to others for up to two weeks before they become unwell," Dr Sutton said.
"This means it is especially important to get vaccinated if you are at risk and are a food handler, healthcare worker or childcare worker, because you might transmit infection to vulnerable people before you realise you are ill."
Reviewed 20 December 2018