More than 170 cases of hepatitis have been diagnosed in Wyndham this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
There were 172 cases of the disease – including hepatitis A, B, C and D – reported in Wyndham between January 1 and October 30.
In comparison, there were 191 cases of hepatitis reported within the same period last year.
Werribee Mercy Hospital physician Marc Lanteri said viral hepatitis could be transmitted by blood transfers – through drug users sharing needles, for example, or from a mother to her baby.
He said viral hepatitis sometimes showed no symptoms, but that the illness could also cause jaundice, abdominal pain and fevers.
“If you are worried you might have hepatitis you should make an appointment with your general practitioner, who can order tests to determine if there has been exposure to a hepatitis virus — or if some other condition is affecting the liver,” he said.
Dr Lentari said many cases of viral hepatitis were cleared by the body’s immune system and did not cause any lasting problems. He said that in many cases, it was possible to treat hepatitis with anti-viral drugs.
“However, if the virus persists in the body it can damage the liver (chronic hepatitis) and result in liver scarring (cirrhosis),” he said.