Hepatitis A outbreak

18 December 2017

People at high risk of hepatitis A are urged to ensure they are vaccinated and practice good hand hygiene following an outbreak of the virus, with another six cases in a week.

SA Health’s Acting Director Communicable Disease Control Branch Dr Louise Flood said the notification of additional cases is concerning.

“We have been notified of 13 cases of hepatitis A since the beginning of November and six of those cases have been confirmed in the past week alone,” Dr Flood said.

“Hepatitis A is usually acquired overseas but we have seen a large increase in locally acquired cases in the last month, predominantly in men who have sex with men.

“We are urging those people who are at high risk of contracting hepatitis A to ensure they are vaccinated, particularly gay men and other men who have sex with men.

“We are also urging everyone, but particularly those in the high risk group, to practice good hand hygiene as the infection is easily spread person-to-person through contaminated food and water, as well as sexual activity.”

The increase in cases in South Australia follows a large increase in locally acquired cases in the eastern states this year, as well as an outbreak in Europe.

Dr Flood said people in high-risk groups should be aware of the symptoms and signs of hepatitis A.

“Hepatitis A symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, joint pain and nausea, followed a few days later by dark urine and jaundice,” Dr Flood said.

“Those people in at risk groups include men who have sex with men, people travelling to endemic countries, people with chronic liver disease, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and people with occupational risk such as childcare workers, plumbers or sewerage treatment plant staff.

“While infectious, those with hepatitis A should avoid preparing food or providing personal care for others, wash their hands thoroughly and regularly, and avoid sexual contact or blood donation to help prevent further spread.”

Cases are infectious for two weeks before, and up to seven days after the onset of jaundice, and while most cases fully recover, ongoing medical monitoring is required as complications can occur in rare cases.

There have been 19 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in South Australia this year, compared a total of seven cases for the whole of 2016.

For more information about the signs and symptoms, go to You've Got What? Hepatitis A.

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