Hepatitis A spreads among Hong Kong gay men

Centre for Health Protection says 11 more cases have emerged, bringing the total to 24

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 6:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 9:55pm

Eleven more men who had sex with men were identified as hepatitis A carriers after the city recorded an unusual spike of cases over the past year.

The additional cases, which were identified through the Centre for Health Protection’s investigation into previous cases, were reported from September 2015 to February 3 this year.

The total number of gay men affected by the virus rose to 24. Among them, 20 tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus.

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“The latest situation suggests that, apart from spreading among HIV-positive men who have sex with men, the hepatitis A virus may have spread among [gay men] in the community by sexual transmission,” the centre’s spokesman said.

The centre revealed last week that a significant increase of hepatitis A cases was detected since August last year among HIV-positive men who attended the Health Department’s Integrated Treatment Centre, with three more cases being traced back to September 2015.

Between 2006 and 2015, the city recorded zero to two cases of the viral infection per year.

The spokesman said the symptoms in most of the 11 new cases became apparent as early as April last year. In three cases this happened last month.

Among those affected, 20 were discharged after hospital treatment, while four did not require admission. All recovered following treatment.

About 150 one-off free hepatitis A vaccinations were given to gay men attending five designated public clinics as of Wednesday. They were first offered last Friday in an attempt to control the outbreak.

The spokesman added that other men who had sex with men should consult doctors if in doubt and receive vaccinations from the private sector.

“Vaccinating susceptible individuals together with safer sex and strict personal hygiene are key to preventing hepatitis A via sexual transmission,” he said.

According to the centre, hepatitis A infection itself is rarely fatal but could cause acute liver failure, which has a high mortality rate.