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Travel Health - Hepatitis A


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Travel Health - Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus (HAV) and results in inflammation of the liver. It is highly contagious, affects 1.4 million people worldwide every year, and is the most common vaccine preventable disease in travellers.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of hepatitis A may range in severity. Babies and young children often experience no obvious signs or symptoms, while older children may show symptoms. The disease is more severe in adults with illness lasting several weeks and recovery taking several months. The risk of death from hepatitis A infection increases with age.
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • Pain in the abdomen including the liver area
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Dark urine
  • Pale-coloured stools
How is it contracted?
Hepatitis A is most commonly transmitted by eating or drinking food or water contaminated by infected sewage or faeces. It may also be spread by close contact with an infected person, for example someone with whom you live, or occasionally through sexual contact. Important sources of infection are:
  • Shellfish from sewage polluted beds
  • Contaminated raw fruit and vegetables
  • Contaminated milk and milk products
  • Pollution of water sources
Who is at most risk?

A number of groups are considered to be at increased risk. These include:
  • Overseas travellers visiting the high-risk areas detailed below
  • People in contact with someone infected with the hepatitis A virus
  • Injecting drug users
  • Homosexual men
Where are you at risk?

Hepatitis A is found worldwide but it is most prevalent in any area where sanitary conditions are poor and especially in...
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Central America and Caribbean
  • Countries of the former Soviet Union
  • Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East
  • Indian subcontinent
  • South America
Protecting yourself against Hepatitis A?

The hepatitis A vaccine is given by injection and is available for children over one year old and adults.

When should you be vaccinated?

Check with your doctor or practice nurse as soon as you have decided where and when you are travelling, and they will advise you.

Does the vaccination have any side effects?

Like most injections, some people may experience tenderness and redness at the site of the injection. Hepatitis A cannot be contracted directly from the vaccine.

Does the hepatitis A vaccine protect against other types of hepatitis?

Other types of hepatitis e.g. hepatitis B and C are all different diseases caused by different viruses. The hepatitis A vaccine only protects against the hepatitis A virus.