The Deputy Chief Health Officer, Victoria, Dr Brett Sutton issued an updated health alert concerning an hepatitis A outbreak affecting dozens of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), and people who inject drugs today.
As of 12 January, 27 confirmed cases have been identified, and a further 12 cases of hepatitis A infection are being investigated. Of the 27 confirmed cases, all are male and most have not travelled overseas, indicating that hepatitis A is passing between MSM in Victoria. A number of cases have visited sex on premises venues or report using dating apps or websites. Some cases are being identified in people who inject drugs.
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.
Victoria Health offers the following advice to health providers regarding this outbreak:
- Offer a free, two-dose course of monovalent inactivated hepatitis A vaccine to all men who have sex with men who live in Victoria and all people who have injected drugs in the past 12 months and live in Victoria, available from 22 January 2018 until 31 December 2018.
- Three other vaccines are now being provided for free to MSM in Victoria throughout 2018 – meningococcal ACWY vaccine to combat an outbreak of meningococcal C, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to prevent HPV-related cancers in MSM, and hepatitis B vaccine (an ongoing program).
- If hepatitis A is confirmed, your patient should avoid any sexual activity, and should not prepare food or drink or share utensils, nor provide personal care for others, share linen or towels, or donate blood.
- Advise MSM against engaging in high risk sexual practices, including attending sex on premises venues, as such practices may increase the potential for transmission.
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