The number of cases of hepatitis A recorded in Switzerland more than doubled in 2017, according to the Federal Office of Public Health. Men were substantially more affected than women.
The statistics, published on Monday, show that 110 instances of hepatitis A infection were reported in 2017. The figure is more than double that recorded in 2016 (43 cases), and is at a level not seen since 2009 (107).
The health officeexternal link said that the rise is clearly connected to a wider outbreak of the disease across Europe, which has been particularly noticeable in men who have sex with other men.
In the Swiss case, although “sexual contact” was only cited as an explicit infection source for 15 of the 110 cases, men were three times more likely than women to be affected. Males between the ages of 20 and 30 were most commonly infected. In previous years, the gender balance was rather stable.
Hepatitis A, an acute liver disease, can also be transmitted by ingesting certain foods or coming into contact with contaminated water; in general, the disease is more prevalent in countries with poor hygienic standards.
The strain, unlike hepatitis C, can be prevented by a simple vaccination. The health office recommends that those at higher risk of contraction – injection drug users, men who have sex with other men, those travelling to countries with poor sanitary conditions – should get the vaccination.
Symptoms of hepatitis A range from mild to severe, says the World Health Organizationexternal link, and can include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-coloured urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).