The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is reminding men who have sex with men (MSM) to get the hepatitis A vaccine. Public Health reports 12 cases among MSM so far in 2017, which is three more cases than were reported in 2016. MSM are known to be at risk for Hepatitis A (HAV) and have been recommended nationally to receive the vaccine. Public Health is informing healthcare providers of the increase in cases this year, reminding them to offer vaccine, and requesting their assistance in detecting and reporting any cases of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A Vaccine Image/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Hepatitis A Vaccine
Image/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Outbreaks of hepatitis A among MSM are occurring nationally and internationally this year with outbreaks having been declared in New York City and Colorado, as well as very large outbreaks in Europe, Chile and Australia. The increase of hepatitis A cases among MSM in Los Angeles County is consistent with these other worldwide outbreaks and is occurring within the context of the outbreak of hepatitis A among homeless persons and those who use illicit drugs.

Hepatitis A causes acute liver disease, which may be severe. It is transmitted by contact with feces from a person who is infected – often through contact with food or water or during sex or other close contact. Most adults with acute hepatitis A will have symptoms that may include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark colored urine and jaundice. If you experience these symptoms, contact your physician.

Although Hepatitis A is very contagious, you can take the following steps to prevent Hepatitis A:

  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing, serving or eating food.
  • Don’t have sex with someone who has hepatitis A infection.
  • Use your own towels, toothbrushes and eating utensils.
  • Don’t share food, drinks, or smokes with other people.

Public Health is providing education and vaccination to at-risk individuals including MSM, homeless, and active drug users. Public Health also continues surveillance for cases to diligently monitor and vaccinate all individuals who may have been exposed to ill individuals with hepatitis A, and works closely with healthcare providers and organizations that serve at-risk individuals to protect the health of patients/clients, staff and the community. The outbreak of hepatitis A among homeless individuals and active drug users in Los Angeles County includes 14 cases, 12 hospitalizations and no deaths.