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Hepatitis A outbreak in Cheshire and Merseyside

31 July 2017

Public Health England North West are highlighting the recent increase in cases of Hepatitis A infection in Cheshire and Merseyside and are currently working with local partners to investigate. They believe the infection has spread through sex, in some cases occurring in gay men.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus that's spread in the poo of an infected person. It's uncommon in the UK, but certain groups are at increased risk. This includes travellers to parts of the world with poor levels of sanitation, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs. Hepatitis A can be unpleasant, but it's not usually serious and most people make a full recovery within a couple of months. Some people, particularly young children, may not have any symptoms. But hepatitis A can occasionally last for many months and, in rare cases, it can be life-threatening if it causes the liver to stop working properly (liver failure).

What are the symptoms?

  • feeling tired and generally unwell
  • joint and muscle pain
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling or being sick
  • pain in the upper-right part of your tummy
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • dark urine and pale stools
  • itchy skin

You can get the infection from:

  • eating food prepared by someone with the infection who hasn't washed their hands properly or washed them in water contaminated with sewage
  • drinking contaminated water (including ice cubes)
  • eating raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated water
  • close contact with someone who has hepatitis A
  • less commonly, having sex with someone who has the infection (this is particularly a risk for men who have sex with men) or injecting drugs using contaminated equipment

So what's the best way to tackle Hepatitis A?

  • change your condoms between any kind of sex
  • practice good hand and personal hygiene
  • if you are in an "at risk" group, get the Hepatitis A vaccine - contact Sexual Health Wirral on 0300 123 5474