A happy family on vacation who are standing on top of a high viewpoint at sunset overlooking an island bay.

The hepatitis A virus causes disease of the liver and is spread by eating contaminated food or from person to person. While the symptoms are generally mild, they can become more severe and last up to 6 months.

Did you know?

  • The hepatitis A virus can live on your hands for hours; and on room-temperature food for much longer.
  • Heating or freezing food does not kill the virus.
  • Immunisation is recommended if you’re travelling to a country where hepatitis A is common.
A young man sitting inside a glass ceilinged building smiling.

What is it?

Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver causing inflammation (pain and swelling). The hepatitis A virus is just one of the forms of viral hepatitis (others include B, C, D and E).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually develop 28 days (but range from 15 to 50 days) after catching the virus – although many people infected with hepatitis A, especially children, show few or no symptoms.

If there are symptoms, they can be mild lasting only a week or two; or severe lasting up to six months. They can include:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • dark urine
  • clay-coloured stools
  • joint pain
  • jaundice (yellowing of eyes and/or skin).

Most people fully recover from hepatitis A.

This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur following hepatitis A infection. Please speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about hepatitis A.

How is it spread?

The hepatitis A virus can survive outside the body, living on hands for several hours and even longer in food stored at room temperature.

The virus is found in the faeces of an infected person – it generally spreads to others if food or water becomes contaminated with their faeces. It can also be spread by direct person-to-person contact.

Who is at risk?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are at greater risk of infection and hospitalisation than non- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Anyone who is not immunised or has not previously been infected with hepatitis A is at risk of infection. You may have higher risk of infection if:

  • you travel to areas where hepatitis A is common
  • there is an occupational risk of exposure to hepatitis A
  • you have a chronic liver condition.

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

Who should be vaccinated?

  • The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended and provided free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in high risk areas as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP). Two doses are usually given, one at 12 months and one at 18 months of age. It’s also recommended for children with certain medical conditions – speak to your doctor to learn more.

    Immunisation schedule

    •  Immunisation funded via the NIP for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and/or medically at-risk children
    •  Immunisation recommended by experts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and/or medically at-risk children but is not funded
    Diseases Birth 2 months 4 months 6 months 12 months 18 months 4 years 10 to <15 years 15-19 years
    Chickenpox (varicella)+                  
    A second dose of varicella vaccine is recommended any time between 4 years of age and less than 14 years, at least 4 weeks after the first dose. Speak to your doctor to learn more.
    Diphtheria                  
     
    Hepatitis A+                  
    Two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine are recommended and NIP-funded for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at 12 months and 18 months living in certain areas. A two-dose schedule (which is not funded) is also recommended for some medically at-risk children and adolescents. Speak to your doctor to learn more.
    Hepatitis B+                  
    An additional booster vaccine is recommended at 12 months of age for preterm infants who were born at less than 32 weeks gestation or whose birth weight was under 2000 grams. Speak to your doctor to learn more.
    Haemophilus influenzae
    type b (Hib)
                     
     
    Human Papillomavirus (HPV)                  
     
    Measles                  
     
    Meningococcal ACWY disease+                  
    The meningococcal ACWY vaccine is strongly recommended (but not funded) for children less than 2 years of age, adolescents (15 - 19 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2 months - 19 years), and those aged at or above 2 months with certain medical conditions. A free dose is given at 12 months of age. For anyone wishing to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease the vaccine is recommended if their doctor deems it appropriate. Speak to your doctor to learn more or see who is most at risk of meningococcal disease here.
    Meningococcal B disease+                  
    The meningococcal B vaccine is strongly recommended (but not funded) for children less than 2 years of age, adolescents (15 - 19 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2 months - 19 years), and those aged at or above 2 months with certain medical conditions. For anyone wishing to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease the vaccine is recommended if their doctor deems it appropriate. Speak to your doctor to learn more or see who is most at risk of meningococcal disease here.
    Mumps                  
     
    Pneumococcal disease+                  
    An additional dose of pneumococcal vaccine is recommended and NIP-funded at 6 months of age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Two additional doses (at 6 months and 4 years) are recommended and NIP-funded for medically-at risk children. Further doses may be recommended and funded during adolescence depending on risk – speak to your doctor to learn more.
    Polio                  
     
    Rotavirus                  
     
    Rubella                  
     
    Tetanus                  
     
    Whooping cough (pertussis)                  
     
    Annual flu+      
     

     

     

     

     

     
    The influenza vaccine is recommended annually for all people aged 6 months and over. Influenza vaccine is funded under the NIP for those at or above 6 months of age with certain medical conditions and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months to under 5 years and those aged at or above 15 years. Learn more about who should receive flu vaccination.
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  • The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for those whose occupation or lifestyle may put them at greater risk of exposure to hepatitis A; and for those with chronic liver conditions. Other individuals may also be at greater risk of getting hepatitis A. Please discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor.

  • You can get hepatitis A by consuming contaminated food or water. The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended if you’re travelling to areas where hepatitis A is common – regardless of where you are eating or staying.

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

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. You can relieve symptoms by:

  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • resting
  • avoiding medicines that affect your liver
  • avoiding alcohol.

For severe cases, some people may need to be hospitalised.

Speak to your doctor about how to manage symptoms.

Important information

For further information about Hepatitis A immunisation in your area, speak to your doctor.

Some side effects may be experienced following immunisation. Please discuss any side effects or concerns with your doctor.

AUS/VAC/0075/18 Date of Approval: November 2018