A FREE two-dose hepatitis A vaccination program has been extended to further control cases of hepatitis A in Victoria.
The vaccination will now be free until June 30 for all men who have sex with men, people who have injected drugs in the past 12 months, homeless rough sleepers and adult prisoners.
There are 211 confirmed cases linked to an outbreak in Victoria and two deaths. Of the confirmed cases, most are male and report male to- male sexual activity.
“It is important that all eligible people get the free hepatitis A vaccine to stop the spread of this serious disease,” Victoria’s acting chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton said.
Immunisation saves lives and protects others in the community.”
Hepatitis A is usually spread through touching objects or consuming food or water that has been contaminated by an infected person. Transmission can also occur through sharing injecting equipment or person-to-person, including sexual
activity, and is not limited to men who have sex with men (MSM).
“It’s important to wash your hands and your body after sex to help stop the spread of hepatitis A. Make sure you’re using condoms and changing condoms between any sexual activity,” Dr Sutton said.
“We also strongly advise any confirmed cases with hepatitis A against engaging in any sexual activity that could increase the spread of the virus.”
The hepatitis A strains detected in this outbreak are similar to those circulating in Europe.
It can take between 15 to 50 days to develop symptoms after a susceptible person comes into contact with hepatitis A.
Adults who get hepatitis A usually develop symptoms, which include fever, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, followed by dark urine and yellow skin/eyes (also known as jaundice).
“People can be infectious and transmit the infection to others for up to two weeks before they become unwell,” Dr Sutton said.
“This means it is especially important to get vaccinated if you are at risk and are a food handler, healthcare worker or childcare worker, because you might transmit infection to vulnerable people before you realise you are ill.”
Talk to your GP or nearest sexual health clinic to get the free vaccines.
For more information, head to betterhealth.vic.gov.au/timetoimmunise.