NSW Food Authority investigates Sydney Hep A outbreak
NSW Food Authority and NSW Health are investigating a hepatitis A outbreak in the Sydney region.
The investigation comes after 10 people have contracted hepatitis A within the area over the past five weeks. On average, there is only two locally acquired hepatitis A cases each year.
Two other individuals have also contracted the disease overseas prior to entering the region.
Director of Communicable Diseases at NSW Health, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said NSW Health and the NSW Food Authority are assessing patterns of food distribution and any links to overseas outbreaks. She said no specific food has yet to be connected to the outbreak.
“Hepatitis A is usually contracted overseas in high-risk countries, but 10 of these 12 people notified to NSW Health since July 26 have had no recent overseas travel,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Travellers to high-risk countries and anyone at higher risk of infection, including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, sewerage workers and childcare workers, should ensure that they are vaccinated against hepatitis A.
“Two doses of vaccine prevent infection and is available through GPs.”
NSW Health said that when hepatitis A outbreaks occur in Australia they are either linked to the consumption of contaminated food products or person-to-person spread.
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that spreads in contaminated food or through poor hygiene. Symptoms of hepatitis infection may include nausea, vomiting, fever and yellowing of the skin, dark urine and pale stools.
The risk of spreading hepatitis A can be reduced by washing hands thoroughly, particularly after going to the toilet, touching soiled linen or items, changing nappies and before preparing or eating food.
Several hepatitis A outbreaks have been reported internationally in the past six months where hepatitis A is usually uncommon, including in Europe and California.