The Hepatitis A virus can cause liver infection. It is spread by food and water contaminated with human faeces (poo), poor hand washing, sex, or contact with someone who is already infected. In most people the disease is not serious, but in rare cases it can cause liver failure and death. Most people who catch hepatitis A make a full recovery within a couple of months, and afterwards have lifelong immunity from the disease.
Hepatitis A is most common in parts of the world without access to clean water and good sanitation (such as parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, the Middle East, Central America and South America). It is not common in the UK, but some groups are at increased risk. This includes men who have sex with men and drug users who inject drugs, as well as people who travel to countries where the disease is common.
In Europe and the UK there is currently an increase in the number of cases of hepatitis A, mainly among men who have sex with men. Over 60% of UK cases so far have been in London. Public Health England is encouraging gay and bisexual men to practice good personal hygiene and ask about hepatitis A vaccination at their sexual health clinic appointments.