Two outbreaks of hepatitis A have been reported in Australia in 2018, one in the Sydney area of New South Wales and the other in Victoria. As of January 12, 30 cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed in New South Wales, where free vaccinations will be offered to at-risk groups. In Victoria, 27 confirmed cases have been reported. The outbreaks are primarily affecting gay and bisexual men, as well as individuals who use injectable drugs.
Hepatitis A is transmitted via food and water that has been contaminated by human fecal material containing the virus. The incubation period is between 15 and 50 days. In approximately 90 percent of cases the infected person presents no symptoms. In cases where symptoms are present the patient may display flu-like symptoms, long-term fatigue (lasting weeks or months), headaches, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hives, and muscle and joint pain. In some cases the individual may complain of discomfort in the upper right portion of the abdomen (liver). A gradual yellowing of the skin may also be observed, which can last up to a month. Given that symptoms of Hepatitis A are rare and easily confused with other illnesses, a doctor should be consulted in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
Individuals in or considering travel to the area are advised to contact their medical provider regarding vaccination. To reduce exposure to the virus, exercise proper personal hygiene and food sanitation measures: wash hands regularly, do not drink tap water, and eat only thoroughly cooked foods.