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Hepatitis A

did you know?

In developed countries, hepatitis A is one of the most common infections that are acquired when travelling. Worldwide, hepatitis A infections account for 1.4 million cases annually.

Hepatitis A - What is it?

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver causing inflammation. It is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A infection is most commonly contracted by consuming food or drink(s) that have been contaminated with the virus due to poor sanitary or hygiene practices.

Hepatitis A - Who is at risk?

Anyone who is not vaccinated or has not previously been infected with hepatitis A is at is at risk of infection. Hepatitis A is common in developing countries where sanitation and access to clean water is poor.

Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended for all travellers aged 1 year and above when visiting destinations where hepatitis A is common.

Frequent destinations for Australian travellers where hepatitis A vaccination may be recommended include countries such as: Indonesia, Thailand, China, Singapore, Fiji, Malaysia, Hong Kong Vietnam and India.

Other people may be at risk of hepatitis A infection. Please speak to your doctor regarding your individual circumstances.

Hepatitis A - How is it spread?

Hepatitis A infection only occurs in humans. The hepatitis A virus is hardy and can survive outside the body, living on hands for several hours and even longer in food stored at room temperature.

The hepatitis A virus is passed in the faeces of infected persons. It is mostly spread to others by the ingestion of food or water that has been contaminated by the faeces of infected people. It can also be spread by  direct person-to-person contact. The risk of infection is greatest in areas where sanitation is poor.

Hepatitis A - What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually develop 28 days (but range from 15 to 50 days) after catching the virus.

Many people infected with hepatitis A, especially children, show few or no symptoms. If there are symptoms, they can be mild, lasting a week or two, or severe, lasting up to six months. Symptoms may include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-coloured stools, joint pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). People usually recover within a month of showing symptoms.

This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur following hepatitis A infection. If you feel unwell while travelling or when you return home, make sure you a doctor as soon as possible.

Hepatitis A - Vaccination and Prevention

Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all travellers aged 1 year or older to countries where hepatitis A is common.

Practising good personal hygiene is also important to help reduce the risk of hepatitis A infection. Measures include:

  • drinking and using safe clean water e.g. only using sealed bottled water or boiled water to drink and brush teeth
  • not putting ice in drinks unless you know it’s from safe water
  • washing hands often using soap and safe clean water
  • avoiding eating food kept at room temperature for several hours
  • avoiding eating uncooked food, including salads and fruit that cannot be peeled, and seafood
  • thoroughly boiling or cooking food and drinks

An easy way to remember what to avoid is: If you cannot boil it, cook it or peel it - forget it.

Hepatitis A - Treatment

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Treatment aims to manage the symptoms.

It is important to plan ahead and see your doctor at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss vaccination and travel health.

 

Some side effects may be experienced following vaccination. Please discuss any side effects or concerns with your healthcare professional.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE SPEAK TO YOUR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL

 

AUS/VAC/0034/15. Date of approval: April 2015.