World Pride in Madrid has brought the spotlight back onto Hep A but even America is not being spared from this preventable infection. On July 12, 2017 the city of San Diego reported as many as 228 cases, including five (5) fatalities. This is beginning to become a world wide trend disproportionately effecting gay males.
Symptoms can include a flu-like illness, nausea, weight loss and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). Some people have no symptoms at all but can still pass on the virus.
It is mainly spread through contaminated food or from person to person through inadequate hand-washing. It’s also transmitted through sex – including oral and anal. People who have multiple sexual partners are at greater risk due to possible increased exposure.
Food washed by an infected person who has not washed their hands after going to the toilet, or seafood and shellfish that has been taken from water containing sewage, are among the reasons some tourist locations are linked to outbreaks.
Dr Michael Edelstein Consultant Epidemiologist in the Hepatitis and Blood Safety Department for Public Health England, said: ‘Public Health England is aware of an increase in hepatitis A cases, where we believe the infection has been spread through sex, most cases occurring in gay and bisexual men.
‘Hepatitis A can be prevented by practicing good personal hygiene, so we recommend gay and bisexual men wash their hands after sex and change condoms between any kind of sex to reduce their risk of getting hepatitis A.
A vaccine is available to prevent infection, and those at risk can ask for more details from their GP or sexual health clinic.