Hepatitis A outbreaks have been reported throughout Europe in 2017 with several EU countries reporting large increases in hepatitis A cases compared to previous years, mainly affecting men who have sex with men.

Image/Robfoto via pixabay
Image/Robfoto via pixabay

Poland has seen a huge increase in cases this year compared to recent previous years. According to a Radio Poland report, there were 1,685 cases between January and the end of September.

This compares to 35 cases of the disease were reported in 2016 and 49 reported in 2015.

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In the capital city of Warsaw, 551 hepatitis A cases have been reported in the first 11 months of 2017.

Spokeswoman for the State Provincial Sanitary Inspectorate, Joanna Narożniak said that the “cause of the outbreak is as yet unknown”.

Hepatitis A is a virus that can cause a liver infection. Symptoms can last a few days to several months. The virus is rarely fatal and most people develop lifetime immunity following infection. Hepatitis A can be serious however, especially for older people and those with chronic liver disease. For these individuals, there is a greater risk of hospitalization and death.

Most people who are infected recover completely. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A does not develop into chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and death from hepatitis A infection is rare.

Symptoms can begin 15 to 50 days after becoming infected. It is also possible to be infected and not have any symptoms. For symptomatic individuals, the severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and light-colored stools.  Symptoms usually appear over a number of days and last less than two months.  However, some people can be ill for as long as six months.