Hepatitis A Vaccine

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What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a viral disease that is common in developing countries and is generally associated with poor sanitation and poor hygiene. It is one of the most common vaccine-preventable illnesses in travellers.

What is my risk?    

Your risk depends on several factors: destination, length of trip, and your living conditions. Speak with one of our Healthcare Professionals to understand your risk of hepatitis A.

The risk of hepatitis A is highest among travellers:

  • Visiting or living in rural areas
  • Eating and drinking in locations with poor sanitation or unsafe food handling practices

The risk of hepatitis A exists even for travellers going for short periods of time to urban areas, staying in luxury hotels and who follow good hygiene and water and food precautions.

How is it transmitted?         

  • The hepatitis A virus can be spread through contaminated food and water or through close contact with an infected person.
  • Certain uncooked foods such as shellfish, fruits or salads can be contaminated, as well as foods that are prepared in unsanitary conditions or by an infected person with unsafe food handling practices.
  • It can also be transmitted through close personal contact when poor hygiene is practised:
    • in day cares, households, schools, etc.
    • less commonly, through sexual contact.

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms can take from 15 to 50 days to appear (average 28 days).
  • Some people who are infected have no symptoms, others may have only mild symptoms that last from 1 to 2 weeks and some may experience more severe symptoms that can last several months.
  • In children, symptoms are mild to non-existent. Severity of the illness increases with age.
  • Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal discomfort, dark urine and grey-colored stool, jaundice (yellowing of skin and whites of eyes).
  • In severe and rare occasions, symptoms can include liver damage, liver failure, or death. Individuals with pre-existing chronic liver disease and older people are most at risk for this.
  • Recovery generally takes a few weeks, but can take months. Most people recover without side effects and have lifelong immunity against hepatitis A.

Can hepatitis A be treated?

There is no treatment for hepatitis A, only supportive care to help relieve symptoms.

Where is hepatitis A a concern?

  • Hepatitis A occurs worldwide but is more common in regions with poor sanitation and lack of safe food and water.
  • Regions where there is a high risk of hepatitis A transmission include Africa, Asia and Central and South America.

Recommendations

Speak with one of our Travel Health Specialists preferably six weeks before you travel.

Get vaccinated if you are at risk but are not yet immunized. Discuss whether vaccination is right for your with one of our Travel Health Specialists. 

  • Hepatitis A may be vaccinated against independently, or in conjunction with Hepatitis B or Typhoid

Practice safe food and water precautions. More information about food and water safety is available from the CDC.

Wash your hands frequently. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.