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The New York City Health Department is reporting 46 patients positive for hepatitis A through August 31, 45 of whom are men who have sex with men (MSM) prompting officials to recommend that all MSM be vaccinated against the viral disease.

New York City Skyline/Barvinok (Sylius)
New York City Skyline/Barvinok (Sylius)

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Thirty-seven of the 46 patients reported no travel to countries where hepatitis A is prevalent. This is a significant increase over the last six years, when the Department identified an average of only three cases annually of hepatitis A infections among MSM who reported no travel to countries where this disease was prevalent.

The Health Department recommends all MSM be vaccinated against hepatitis A. Of the 46 cases, only three patients with infection reported previously receiving a hepatitis A vaccine.

LISTEN: Talking Hepatitis A with Dr Amesh Adalja

“As we see this troubling rise in hepatitis A infections among men who have sex with men, we remind New Yorkers that this disease is easily preventable,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Hepatitis A can potentially lead to long-term complications, but staying up-to-date with vaccinations is the best way to protect yourself and your fellow New Yorkers. Vaccinations are readily accessible and available at our Immunization Clinic and eight Sexual Health Clinics.”

“Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner for the Health Department’s Division of Disease Control. “Men who have sex with men who are unvaccinated — and their providers — need to be alert to this emerging risk.”

Since 1996, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that all MSM receive two doses of hepatitis A vaccine; the second dose should be administered six to 12 months after the first dose. Evidence suggests that vaccination could provide immunity against hepatitis A for at least 25 years.