Spike in Hepatitis A cases prompts health warning

Friday, 8 December 2017

Health authorities are urging those at high risk of hepatitis A to ensure they are vaccinated following a spike in cases, with seven people diagnosed in the past three weeks.

SA Health’s Acting Director Communicable Disease Control Branch Dr Louise Flood said South Australia has seen more than double the number of cases of hepatitis A this year.

“We have been notified of 13 cases of hepatitis A in South Australia so far this year, compared to only seven cases for the whole of last year,” Dr Flood said.

“Hepatitis A is usually acquired overseas, but so far this year we’ve had nine South Australian cases acquired in Australia, following a large increase in locally acquired cases in New South Wales and Victoria this year. The increase interstate is predominantly amongst gay men, and other 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 men who have sex with men.”

Dr Flood said people, especially those in at risk groups, should be aware of the symptoms and signs of hepatitis A as the infection is spread person-to-person through sexual activity, as well as contaminated food and water.

“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.

“Infected patients 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.”

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.

There have been 13 confirmed cases of hepatitis A so far this year, compared to six at the same time last year and a total of seven for the whole of 2016.

For more information about the signs and symptoms see Hepatitis A - including symptoms, treatment and prevention

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