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HEPATITIS A

What is it?

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that affects the liver. It is rare in the UK and other developed countries, with most of the reported cases in these places occurring in travellers who have recently been to areas where the disease is more common. Hepatitis A can occur worldwide, but is most common in lower-income countries and regions with poor sanitation and hygiene. These include India, sub-Saharan and North Africa, parts of the Far East, South and Central America and the Middle East.1,2

Who is at risk?

Certain travellers are at a higher risk of hepatitis A infection, including:2

  • Frequent travellers or those staying for longer periods in areas with poor sanitation and food hygiene
  • People staying with the local population
  • People with existing medical conditions
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who inject drugs
  • People visiting areas where there has been an outbreak of hepatitis A and where there is limited access to safe water and medicine

What are the symptoms?

Children who are infected with hepatitis A may have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, and the disease gets more serious as age increases.2 Symptoms of hepatitis A can include fever, stomach upset, loss of appetite, nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pain. People infected with hepatitis A sometimes have a yellow tint to their skin and eyes, and a general feeling of being ill.1,2

How is it spread?

Hepatitis A is spread through contaminated food and water, as well as through contact with infected people where personal hygiene is poor.1

How can it be prevented?

You can reduce the risk of catching hepatitis A by practising good hygiene, such as washing your hands after using the bathroom and before eating. If you are visiting areas where the drinking water may not be safe, or where hygiene and sanitation are poor, vaccination may also be recommended depending on the countries you are visiting and the activities you are planning.1,2

If you are travelling in a high-risk area, you should also avoid foods such as shellfish, salads, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and raw or undercooked meats.1

How can it be treated?

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A, and recovery from the illness can take weeks to months.1,2 It is important to take the recommended steps to reduce your risk of infection.

Where can I get further information?

If you have any questions or concerns about exposure to hepatitis A, please speak to your doctor or a travel health practitioner for more information.

Make sure you contact your GP or travel health practitioner in plenty of time before you travel to discuss the ways you can help to keep yourself healthy whilst away. You should try and contact them at least 4–6 weeks before your trip.

After your trip, you should contact your GP if you develop a fever or notice any other unusual symptoms.

  1. Fit For Travel. Hepatitis A. Available at: http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/disease-prevention-advice/hepatitis-a.aspx. Accessed August 2017.
  2. Travel Health Pro. Hepatitis A. Available at: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/disease/70/hepatitis-a. Accessed August 2017.

Date of preparation: November 2017
SAGB.TRAV.17.10.1322r