ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an acute viral infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV).7 The symptoms of HAV infection are variable but may include fever, stomach discomfort, fatigue and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). While the infection is usually mild or asymptomatic in very young children, it can be more severe in adults with illness lasting several weeks and recovery taking several months.22,23

Transmission is from person-to-person by the faecal–oral route or by close contact, or by consumption of contaminated food or drinking water.22

Geographical distribution
Worldwide, but most common where sanitary conditions are poor and the safety of drinking water is poorly controlled.22

See hepatitis A distribution map

Risk for travellers
Hepatitis A is the most common vaccine-preventable infection of travellers (with the possible exception of influenza).4,23 Non-immune travellers from developed countries are at significant risk of infection and should receive hepatitis A vaccine before travelling to developing countries.22,23

Precautions and prevention

  • Vaccination: A single dose of hepatitis A vaccine can be assumed to provide adequate protection if administered within 2 weeks of departure.7 A second dose given 6–24 months after the first dose of vaccine is recommended for long-term protection.23 A combined hepatitis A and B vaccine and a combined Hep A and typhoid vaccine are available.7 (See your doctor.)
  • Travellers who are nonimmune to hepatitis A (i.e. have not had the disease or are unvaccinated) should take particular care to avoid potentially contaminated food and water (see Drinking safely and Eating safely ).22

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