In a follow-up to the hepatitis A outbreak in Portugal this year, 402 cases have been confirmed since the beginning of the year, according to local media (computer translated). The majority of cases occurred in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley regions.

Portugal map/CIA
Portugal map/CIA

This is up from 322 cases one month ago.

According to the latest DGS data, this outbreak, which began at the beginning of the year and affects other European countries, affected mainly men (88%) and in more than half the cases (52%) contracted it via sexual contact.

LISTEN: Talking Hepatitis A with Dr Amesh Adalja

In view of the outbreak of hepatitis A, the DGS reinforced vaccination prior to the major summer festivals and advised that preventive measures should be taken during these events and after surveillance for hepatitis A-compatible symptoms.

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.

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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.