The National Health Board (DGS) and Portugal’s drugs watchdog Infarmed met on Sunday afternoon to discuss measures to curb the recent surge in cases following an outbreak in other parts of Europe, which has already affected 123 people in Portugal.
As a result of their meeting, the DGS and Infarmed decided that free jabs are to be given (but only with a doctors’ prescription) at the Martim Moniz health centre in the heart of Lisbon.
The DGS has requested around 7,000 doses of the antiviral drug for the purpose.
This follows reports last week that Portugal is currently dealing with a sharp rise in the number of cases of Hepatitis A, mostly in the Greater Lisbon area.
The DGS warned that more than 100 new cases have been registered in that region since the start of this year, and said the surge is likely to be directly related to the growing trend of ‘chemsex’, which is having sexual relations under the influence of chemical substances to last longer, in some instances for days, and involving multiple partners.
The sexual activity is largely undertaken by gay men.
The DGS has said a similar scenario has been noted in a dozen other European countries.
”Last year in Europe we began to see abnormal activity in the disease. It seems to have originated in the Netherlands and then spread to other countries. The UK was the first to report an increase in the number of cases and currently there are about 13 countries reporting this increase, including Portugal. To give you a sense of the magnitude, last year we had six [new] cases reported and now we have a hundred,” Isabel Aldir, the director of the DGS’s national programme for viral hepatitis told Lusa News Agency.
According to Ms. Aldir, the Occurence of this “epidemic activity seems to be very often associated” with sexual transmission through certain practices, especially among men, which increase the risk of spreading the disease.
”This can happen to any individual with any sexual orientation, but what has been so far described, in fact, is a predominance of cases in men - not exclusively - but comparatively many more cases in males than females. And among males, men who have sex with men seem to be more affected,” explained the DGS spokesperson.
The main means of contagion, she said, is through the faecal-oral route.