Earlier this month, European health officials reported on a several hepatitis A outbreaks linked to adult men who have sex with men (MSM).
One of the 13 countries affected is Portugal, where since January, 105 hepatitis A cases were reported, according to Portuguese media (computer translated).
“In the past year in Europe we began to see this increased activity of the disease. It seems to have originated in the Netherlands and then spread to other countries.The UK was the first to report an increase in the number of cases, and currently there are about 13 countries that are reporting increase in numbers, including Portugal.
“To give you a sense of the enormity of the situation, this time last year six cases reported and now we have more than a hundred”, explained the director of the national program for hepatitis of the Directorate-General for Health (DGS).
The cases are predominately being seen in Greater Lisbon and many cases are affecting men who have sex with men (MSM).
Repeated outbreaks of hepatitis A have occurred among MSM in urban areas in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe.
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. Spread through the fecal-oral route, individuals primarily contract hepatitis A through direct contact with an infected person; however, individuals can also contract the illness indirectly by ingestion of contaminated food or water. If an infected individual does not properly wash his/her hands after using the washroom, the virus can be transmitted through food and beverages prepared by the infected individual.
Illness can occur within 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus, but usually does within 28 to 30 days. Individuals can be infectious one to two weeks before symptoms occur until at least one week after the onset of illness.
Symptoms of hepatitis A may include: tiredness; poor appetite; nausea and vomiting; abdominal pain and fever; followed by dark-colored urine, light-colored stools, and yellowing of eyes and skin several days later. Some people, especially young children, may get hepatitis A infection without noticing any symptoms; however, they are still infectious to others.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A, but it can be prevented through immunization.