Health warning for gay men over Hepatitis A outbreak at World Pride

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Public Health England has issued a warning to gay men after an outbreak of hepatitis A.

The health body urged gay and bisexual men to take extra precautions against infection of hepatitis A, as cases are increasingly reported in the community.

Hepatitis A is a highly infectious virus causing inflammation of the liver, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea and a flu-like illness.

While it can be transmitted through food or water contaminated with faeces, there has been a recent outbreak among men who have sex with men (MSM), which is believed to have been spread through oral or anal sex.

Two men kiss at Madrid Pride

Two men kiss at Madrid Pride (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo/Getty Images)

Those most at risk are MSM with multiple partners, while some cases have been linked to those visiting Spain and other European countries.

Cases are more prevalent in London; however as people travel within the UK or further abroad this summer it is feared more will be exposed to the virus.

The health body issued an urgent warning to those planning on attending World Pride in Madrid later this month, encouraging them to visit their genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic to request the vaccine.

Those not travelling to World Pride are advised to ask about vaccination at their next sexual health check-up.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, said: “Hepatitis A among gay and bisexual men is significantly higher than usual, making it important to take extra care – especially if travelling to other countries.

“Men who have sex with men are at highest risk and should ask about the vaccine the next time they visit a GUM clinic.

“The Spanish Government has asked those attending the World Pride event in Madrid to get protected but there are some vaccine shortages locally. Therefore those intending to travel should ask at their GUM clinics before they leave.”

Cary James, Head of Health Improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We’re concerned about the outbreak of hepatitis A, a virus which affects the liver.

“Gay and bisexual men are particularly affected so we would urge them to follow PHE’s advice around vaccination, be aware of the symptoms and follow the prevention advice.

“By following these easy steps, you will stay protected and can enjoy a safe, healthy and happy Pride season.”

Top tips to minimise infection

* Wash your hands after sex (ideally buttocks, groin and penis too)
* Use protection for fingering, rimming and fisting
* Change condoms between anal and oral sex
* Avoid sharing sex toys

World Pride takes place in Madrid 23 June – 2 July.