Bi/Gay Men At Risk for Hepatitis A
[ATLANTA, GA] -- A recent outbreak of hepatitis A infection in Atlanta is focusing attention on the heightened risk of hepatitis A infection among gay and bisexual men. Hepatitis A is transmitted through oral-fecal contact, that is, through exposure to materials contaminated with the fecal matter of infected persons. The illness is usually characterized by transient, flu-like symptoms and jaundice. It is not usually life-threatening.
"Gay men are at higher risk for getting hepatitis A," according to Dr. Michael Friedman, primarily becuse some of the "sexual behaviors that gay men engage in place them at a higher risk."
"I think there is a lack of awareness of the risks among gay men," said Friedman, an expert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health officials advise gay and bisexual men to be routinely vaccinated against the hepatitis A virus. The federal agency reports that during the first half of 1996, "222 cases of hepatitis A were reported in Atlanta residents, a 730% increase compared with the annual average of 27 cases during 1993-1995." Nearly three quarters (74%) of these cases occurred among homosexual or bisexual men, up from 41% recorded during the previous year.
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