Men who have sex with men (MSM) are being warned to be aware of the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A and get vaccinated following an outbreak in Australia.
Victoria's Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton today said MSM who had recently travelled to Sydney, Europe or the USA were at higher risk of hepatitis A infection.
"There has been an outbreak of 18 cases of hepatitis A in Sydney since late July, with several cases reporting MSM sexual activity," Dr Sutton said.
"Hepatitis A is usually acquired overseas, but most of the cases in this outbreak have been acquired locally.
"In Victoria, there have been four cases of hepatitis A this year in travellers from Europe who have reported MSM sexual activity."
Since 2016, hepatitis A outbreaks among MSM have been reported in 16 European countries and several states in the USA. In total, there have been around 1,500 confirmed cases in Europe. The strain detected in Sydney is similar to that circulating in Europe.
Hepatitis A is spread through person-to-person transmission, including sexual activity, which includes, but is not limited to MSM. Outbreaks can also occur through contaminated water and food.
It can take between 15 to 50 days to develop symptoms after becoming infected. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, fever and chills, followed a few days later by dark urine and jaundice.
People are infectious for two weeks prior to showing symptoms and therefore can transmit the infection to others before becoming unwell.
Dr Sutton said the hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for high risk groups including all MSM and all travellers to countries where hepatitis A is endemic and countries with current outbreaks of hepatitis A.
"This is especially important if you work in an occupation where you can transmit the disease to others, such as food handlers, healthcare and childcare workers," Dr Sutton said.
"We also strongly advise any confirmed cases with hepatitis A against engaging in high risk sexual activity that could increase the spread of the virus."
Anyone experiencing symptoms should contact their GP or Nurse-On-Call on 1300 60 60 24.
Reviewed 20 September 2017