Objective: To describe five outbreaks of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection associated with illicit drug use during a statewide outbreak of HAV infection in Queensland.
Design: Risk factor prevalence survey.
Patients and setting: All 875 cases of HAV infection notified to Public Health Units in Queensland in the 12 months to 30 November 1997.
Main outcome measure: Type and prevalence of illicit drug use.
Results: Risk factor assessment was completed for 804 cases (91.9%). We identified five outbreaks of HAV infection linked to illicit drug use. These outbreaks accounted for 24.6% (215/875) of all notified cases and 39% (190/482) of notified cases in the 15-34 years age group. The main type of illicit drug use in four of the five outbreaks was injecting drug use (74%; 118/160), while in the other outbreak it was sharing of smoking implements for marijuana (38%; 21/55).
Conclusion: Illicit drug use may be an under-recognised risk factor for HAV infection, particularly in young people. Faecal-oral transmission through poor personal hygiene, including sharing of implements for smoking marijuana, is the most probable route of transmission in these drug-linked outbreaks. The role of contaminated drug and needle-sharing remains to be clarified.