In a follow-up on the hepatitis A outbreak in Victoria, Australia, Deputy Chief Health Officer, Victoria, Dr Brett Sutton says cases of hepatitis A continue to increase in Victoria, with one death having been confirmed as part of the outbreak.
There are now 58 confirmed outbreak cases, seven probable cases and one death. An additional 16 cases of hepatitis A are under early investigation. All cases are adults with most reporting male-to-male sexual activity, and many have not travelled overseas.
A number of cases have also identified as people who inject drugs (PWID). Evidence is suggesting that homeless people may now be at risk of infection.
Detailed laboratory analysis has found that the strains of hepatitis A virus in this outbreak are very similar to a currently circulating strain in Europe. Since mid-2016, several hepatitis A outbreaks associated with MSM sexual activity have been reported in many European countries and in the United States of America. A similar outbreak was reported earlier in 2017 in New South Wales.
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Health officials offer the following advice:
- All MSM and people who have injected drugs in the past 12 months are strongly encouraged to get the free two-dose vaccination from their local GP, sexual health clinic or community health centre.
- Patients suspected to have hepatitis A should not prepare food or drink or share utensils, provide personal care for others, share linen or towels, have sex or donate blood until infection is excluded.
- Advise MSM against engaging in high risk sexual practices, including oral-anal sexual activity (rimming), or attending sex on premises venues, as such practices may increase the potential for transmission.
- Advise PWID not to share or re-use needles, spoons, swabs, water, or any other injecting equipment.
- PWID should wash their hands in warm soapy water before and after injecting, and swab the injection site with alcohol swabs. Special care should be taken when injecting in groups, or when being injected by others. Label or mark your syringe.
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