A Traveller’s Guide To Hepatitis A

.tags There are several types of hepatitis (hep) viruses and this article is just about hepatitis A (or hep A). One of the main causes of infection is bad hygiene so it is vital to wash your hands after using the toilet as the hepatitis A virus is passed in the bowel motions of an infected person.

In many developing countries, because of its source, drinking water may be contaminated with the virus. Because of this it is important to not only be extra careful when drinking fluids, but to also think about other things that may have come into contact with water so food that has been cooked and is still hot is generally safer, and try to avoid fruit, vegetables and other uncooked foods as they may have been washed in water that contains the virus.

Hepatitis A symptoms

Usually between 15-50 days after becoming infected with the virus, (quite often when the holiday is over), infected people can show signs of the early symptoms:

Hep A symptoms can include:

Body weakness
Weight loss/loss of appetite
Temperature over 38C (100.4F)
This may be followed by jaundice symptom of liver infection), where the skin whites of the eye appear yellow. Recovery can take a month in young people. Some people however are ill for much longer and upto 2% of those people over 50 who are infected will die.

If you think you have any of the signs or symptoms of hepatitis A then you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

If you have been advised to take the hepatitis A vaccine you should measure the risk and cost of the hepatitis A vaccine against the potential risk of catching the disease.

Hepatitis A vaccination can be given alone, or with hepatitis B or typhoid. A travel health expert will be able to let you know which vaccine is the most suitable for you and your trip and whether you need to return to get a booster.

Hepatitis A protection summary

To get the best protection from the disease you should try and get vaccinated 2 months before you leave for your travels
Ensure you have washed your hands after using the toilet, especially if you are about to eat
Only drink water from a sealed bottle or water that has been through a good quality filter or where tablets or boiling procedures have taken place
Avoid raw food and shellfish (uncooked)
Freshly cooked and still hot food is safer