Surveillance and outbreak reports Open Access
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We describe an outbreak of hepatitis A which evolved in Northern Ireland between October 2008 and July 2009, against a background of large concurrent hepatitis A outbreaks in various parts of Europe. Thirty-eight cases were defined as outbreak cases using a stratified case definition; 36 were males with a median age of 29 years and of the 28 males whose sexual orientation was known, 26 were men who have sex with men (MSM). Detailed descriptive epidemiology data collected through standardised questionnaires, together with sequencing of a 289 bp fragment of the VP1/2PA region of the virus, significantly aided the understanding of the spread of the outbreak when non-MSM cases occurred. The sequence of the outbreak strain, genotype IA, was indistinguishable from that involved in a large outbreak in the Czech Republic. Although seeded in a generally susceptible Northern Ireland population, the outbreak remained mostly contained in MSM, showing this sub-population to be the most vulnerable despite ongoing hepatitis A vaccination programmes in genito-urinary medicine clinics.


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