Nav: Home

Vaccination: Main prevention measure to address hepatitis A outbreaks among MSM

June 15, 2017

1 173 confirmed hepatitis A cases involving three separate clusters have been reported across 15 countries of the European Union since June 2016. Several EU countries have seen large increases in hepatitis A cases in 2017 compared to previous years, and these are mainly affecting men who have sex with men. In light of these outbreaks and the beginning of Pride period, ECDC stresses the importance of hepatitis A vaccination and the delivery of primary prevention messages as main options to avoid new infections. As several EU/EEA countries experience hepatitis A vaccine shortages, targeting of vaccination to groups at higher risk of infection and advice for safer sex practice are also highlighted.

The on-going hepatitis A (HAV) outbreaks across Europe are rapidly spreading and they have most likely not reached their peak yet. On the contrary: due to reporting delays, the currently available figures do not reflect the true extent of the outbreak situation. So far, most cases are reported among unvaccinated men who have sex with men (MSM) but there is evidence of secondary cases among other groups. Countries reporting outbreak-related cases are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Particularly Spain and Italy report high numbers of hepatitis A infections, mostly in men (see ECDC's updated rapid risk assessment). In Spain, cases reported in 2017 are almost eight times higher than the average number of cases reported during the same period between the years 2012 and 2016. Sequencing results to identify possible links to the circulating HAV strains from several affected EU/EEA countries are still pending.

Interrupting the transmission chain with vaccination and PEP

"As suggested in our latest rapid risk assessment, further transmission may be prevented by vaccination of men who have sex with men and post-exposure prophylaxis among contacts of those infected", says ECDC Acting Director Andrea Ammon, "limited vaccine availability in some countries may however have an impact on the implementation of such control measures."

Austria, Italy, Portugal and Spain are facing hepatitis A vaccine shortages while the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Sweden have reported no shortages. As outlined in the ECDC risk assessment, countries should interact directly with marketing authorisation holders to enquire about supplies at national level as early as possible, i.e. create forecasts of the number of doses required and make procurement arrangements. Any changes in current hepatitis A vaccination policies and supplementary immunisation activities should be planned as early as possible.

Staying healthy during Pride season

With the start of the Pride season, including the upcoming WorldPride in Madrid with an expected three million participants, the main recommendations stated in the ECDC risk assessment for this event remain valid:
  • Travelers to Pride events should ensure their routine vaccination courses and boosters are up to date as recommended in their country of residence, and discuss the need for additional vaccinations or booster doses with their healthcare provider.

  • In addition, participants should get advice on prevention of sexually transmitted infections prior to attendance. MSM should check their vaccination status against hepatitis A and B, in the context of the on-going hepatitis A outbreaks mainly affecting MSM in EU countries. They should also ask their healthcare provider about national recommendations on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

  • Testing for sexually transmitted infections (including HIV and hepatitis) and healthcare provider evaluation in those experiencing symptoms or had engaged in unprotected sexual activity with casual partners is advised after return.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

Related Hepatitis Articles:

Nanotechnology delivers hepatitis B vaccine
X-ray imaging shows that nanostructured silica acts as a protective vehicle to deliver intact antigen to the intestine so that it can trigger an immune response.
Checkmate for hepatitis B viruses in the liver
Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum M√ľnchen and the Technical University of Munich, working in collaboration with researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and the University Hospital Heidelberg, have for the first time succeeded in conquering a chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus in a mouse model.
How common is Hepatitis C infection in each US state?
Hepatitis C virus infection is a major cause of illness and death in the United States and injection drug use is likely fueling many new cases.
New strains of hepatitis C found in Africa
The largest population study of hepatitis C in Africa has found three new strains of the virus circulating in the general population in sub-Saharan Africa.
High stability of the hepatitis B virus
At room temperature, hepatitis B viruses (HBV) remain contagious for several weeks and they are even able to withstand temperatures of four degrees centigrade over the span of nine months.
Findings could lead to treatment of hepatitis B
Researchers have gained new insights into the virus that causes hepatitis B -- a life-threatening and incurable infection that afflicts more than 250 million people worldwide.
How to cure more hepatitis C patients
The cost of cures for hepatitis C have been prohibitive, but experts who served on an NAS panel have a solution that will save more patients and incentivize drug innovation.
Hepatitis C: A novel point-of-care assay
One of the major challenges identified by the WHO in efforts to eradicate the hepatitis C virus is the diagnosis of chronic cases that are generally asymptomatic.
Countries risk 'running out' of hepatitis C patients to treat, says World Hepatitis Alliance
The latest data on the global hepatitis C epidemic, released today at the World Hepatitis Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, reveal that most countries (especially high-income countries) are running out of patients to treat because of the low diagnosis rates worldwide.
Australia currently on track to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030, but challenges remain for hepatitis B
New data released at this year's World Hepatitis Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, shows that Australia is currently on track to eliminate hepatitis C thanks to its huge efforts to enable population-wide access to treatment.
More Hepatitis News and Hepatitis Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.