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An outbreak of Hepatitis A has been identified in Victoria, with 27 confirmed outbreak cases. Widespread local transmission is occurring and the outbreak is affecting gay, bisexual and other MSM, and people who inject drugs.

The Chief Health Officer (CHO) alerts a free, two-dose course of monovalent inactivated Hepatitis A vaccine to all MSM who live in Victoria and all people who have injected drugs in the past 12 months and live in Victoria, available from 22 January 2018 until 31 December 2018

In addition to the above service, three other vaccines are now being provided for free to MSM in Victoria throughout 2018 - meningococcal ACWY vaccine to combat an outbreak of meningococcal C, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to prevent HPV-related cancers in MSM, and Hepatitis B vaccine (an ongoing program).

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an illness that causes inflammation to your liver.

It’s caused by a virus that’s spread through:

  • person-to-person contact

  • consuming contaminated food, drinks or ice

  • eating from or licking contaminated utensils.

The illness may last only a few weeks, but some people are seriously ill for up to six months. Hepatitis A usually doesn’t cause long-term damage like other types of hepatitis can.

Transmission

Transmission is through the faecal-oral route and can occur when traces of virus are ingested, usually via contaminated hands, objects, water or food.

The incubation period for Hepatitis A infection is between 15 to 50 days with an average of 28 days. People are infectious two weeks prior to symptom onset until around one week after the onset of jaundice or dark urine. This means people may transmit the infection to others for an extended period even before becoming unwell.

You get Hepatitis A by coming in contact with someone with the virus, or through consuming contaminated food, drink or ice. The food or drinks would need to be contaminated by the faeces (poo) of an infected person. It can also be transmitted through sexual contact.

It is more common in countries or places lacking clean water or where there are risky hygienic practices, such as people not washing their hands after using the toilet.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

Symptoms can appear a few weeks after you pick up the infection, but usually they appear at about 30 days.

Some people, especially young children, can have Hepatitis A without having any symptoms.

People who do have symptoms may have:

  • abdominal pain

  • nausea and loss of appetite

  • fever and muscle/joint pains

  • fatigue

  • pain in the right side of your abdomen (where your liver is)

  • dark urine

  • clay-coloured bowel movements (poo)

  • jaundice - a yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Prevention

You can be effectively vaccinated against Hepatitis A.

The virus can live on your hands for several hours and in food left at room temperature for much longer. The virus is resistant to heating and freezing. Washing your hands carefully after going to the toilet, before preparing food and before eating helps prevent infection.

Practicing safe sex will also help.

Your doctor may suggest you be vaccinated if you are planning to visit a region with potentially risky hygiene practices. In those regions, you should avoid food and drinks that may include or be washed in contaminated water.

Advice for patients:

  • From 22 January 2018 until 31 December 2018 all MSM who live in Victoria, and all men and women who have injected drugs in the past 12 months and live in Victoria, will be able to get access to a free, two dose course of Hepatitis A vaccine.

  • Throughout 2018, the Department is recommending a single dose of meningococcal ACWY vaccine for MSM regardless of age, and is also offering a course of HPV vaccine to MSM aged up to 26 years in order to protect against HPV-related cancers.

Support

Cranbourne Stawell Clinic will be your reliable immunisation provider supporting the CHO on this worthy cause.

We welcome you to register with us to receive following free vaccination services:

Hepatitis A vaccine, Meningococcal ACWY vaccine, Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine.


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