Skip to Navigation

Hepatitis A Outbreak in New South Wales

Hepatitis A Outbreak in New South Wales

In June 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported an increase of hepatitis A among high risk groups including people living with HIV (PLHIV) and men who have sex with men in Europe and the Americas.

In New South Wales eighteen locally acquired cases of hepatitis A have been reported since late July. Eight of the eighteen reported cases are men who have sex with men.

Molecular typing suggests the NSW infections are associated withy the recent outbreaks of hepatitis A reported in men who have sex with men in Europe. Epidemiological analysis suggests the infection may now being spread by person to person through local sexual contact.

Vaccinate Against hepatitis A for Your Own Protection

Commonwealth government immunization guidelines for hepatitis A vaccination include men who have sex with men, persons who inject drugs, migrant populations, persons living with HIV and sex workers.

SWOP encourages sex workers who have not been vaccinated for hepatitis A or do not know their vaccination status and may be persons who inject drugs, recent migrant or persons living with HIV or especially are male sex workers who have sex with other men to check their vaccination status and to get vaccinated if they are not immune.

This can be done through your local GP or sexual health service. Hepatitis A vaccinations are given as two doses about six months apart. One does of the vaccine within two weeks after an infection is highly effective in preventing that infection and the two doses provide protection for over ten years. The vaccine is not free and will cost about about $130 plus the cost of your GP visit if your GP does not bulk bill.

Hepatitis A screening is available at sexual health clinics free of charge to people who have the following risks

  1. Men who have sex with men/person who have frequent sex with men who have sex with men
  2. People with living HIV
  3. People with chronic hepatitis C 

If the above persons then screen negative for hepatitis A the hepatitis A vaccine would be offered free by sexual health clinics with no Medicare card needed

If you do not belong to the risk groups above and cannot afford the vaccine you can talk to your GP or local sexual health clinic or call us at SWOP for advice on 9206-2166.

Consider also Getting Vaccinated Against hepatitis Band Tested for hepatitis C

All sex workers should also consider getting vaccinated for hepatitis B if they have not already done so. Hepatitis B vaccinations are provided free in NSW to sex workers and other persons who may be at risk including Aboriginal people, household and sexual contacts of acute and chronic hepatitis B cases, Immunosuppressed people, People with HIV or hepatitis C, Men who have sex with men, Injecting drug users and Clients of sexual health clinics. At Sexual Health clinics Hepatitis B testing and vaccination is offered to anyone who says they are a sex worker for free (no Medicare card required)

This is also an excellent opportunity to check your hepatitis C status (actually as easy as A, B, C) which sexual health will also do at no cost. Hepatitis C now being an easily cleared in most (95%) persons by a 8 to 24 week (depending on drug used) course of treatment.

Any sex worker, especially migrant sex workers seeking support for hepatitis vaccination or testing, can contact SWOPconnect on 02 9206 2166

Lower Your Risk of Acquiring hepatitis A

Vaccination as outlined above is the best protection against hepatitis A.

The hepatitis A virus can survive in the environment on hands for several hours and in food kept at room temperature for considerably longer and is relatively resistant to detergents.

Always wash hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, before preparing and eating food, after handling soiled linen and towels. Care should be taken by washing hands also after sex, after handling sex toys, condoms and other sex equipment and in the cleaning of toys and equipment.

The use of condoms, dams and gloves, especially for any anal sex, will also lower transmission risks.

Symptoms of hepatitis A

Symptoms can show between 15 and 50 days after infection (30 days on average) and include: fever, tiredness, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine and pale faeces, and jaundice (yellow colouring of the eyes and skin). Illness usually lasts between one and three weeks, and is usually followed by complete recovery. Young children who become infected often have no symptoms, but remain infectious to others.

Fact Sheet on hepatitis A, B and C from Hepatitis NSW

NSW Health Media Release re Hepatitis A Outbreak 15 September 2017

Contact Details and Locations of Sexual Health Clinics in NSW