WHAT IS HEPATITIS A?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection triggered in the liver causing acute inflammation due to poor sanitation and hygiene measures. This virus is also known as the Hepatovirus and is a member of the Picornaviridae family.
Transfer of the virus usually begins by ingestion of contaminated food and drink or through person to person contact with faecal matter passing from hand to eventually mouth. Generally the severity of the disease increases with age.
The period of incubation is generally around 28 to 30 days, however can be between 15 to 50 days.
Classical symptoms include:
Mainly all forms of hepatitis present similar symptoms which include nausea/vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, malaise, gastro-intestinal upset and mild fever. Jaundice may result in some cases. Usually the disease does not show any symptoms in children.
Recovery time can take up to a month for the illness to pass and longer in patients with chronic or severe liver failure. Once you have had a Hepatitis A infection you have lifelong immunity to the disease.
DO I NEED HEPATITIS A VACCINATION FOR MY HOLIDAY?
The disease is more common in countries outside Northern and Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Cases in the UK usually arise from the high risk areas such as the Indian subcontinent and the Far East, but the risk extends to Eastern Europe.
To find out what vaccinations you will need for your travels, please visit our country guide and choose which countries you will be visiting. We recommend that all patients with chronic liver disease, haemophilia, injecting drug users and homosexual males should be vaccinated.
For travellers, the vaccination should be given at least 2 weeks prior to departure, but can be given up to the day of departure. Although immunity may not be detectable for 12–15 days following administration of the vaccine, it will offer some protection.
Hepatitis A vaccine requires a primary injection followed by a booster injection in order to achieve long term immunisation. It can be administrated from the age of one year and above.
The booster injection can be administrated after 6 months and can provide at least 20 years protection against the disease.
Several makes of Hepatitis A vaccines are available on the market:
A combination vaccine is also available for Typhoid and Hepatitis for travellers aged 15 and over. (Combined vaccines can be discussed with your local travel vaccine centre)
HOW DO I AVOID GETTING HEPATITIS A?
Prevention is concentrated mainly on following good common sense measures and ensuring food and water are safe to consume. Avoiding certain food types e.g. shellfish, unwashed fruit and salad vegetables and raw or undercooked meats.
Good personal hygiene is essential as this shall the decrease the risk e.g. Washing hands before meals and after visiting the washrooms.