Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

According to the World Health Organisation, every year there are about 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A worldwide.

A hepatitis A vaccine requires one single injection, which should ideally be scheduled to take place at least 2 weeks before travelling abroad. It provides protection for one year, after which you will require a booster dose, which will ensure protection for a further 20 years.

After the injection, your skin around the injection site may harden and you may experience soreness or swelling. Some people also find they feel a little tired after the vaccine or temporarily have a high temperature. In addition to the hepatitis A vaccination, there are combined vaccination courses for hepatitis A and typhoid as well as hepatitis A and hepatitis B. If you are unsure as to which vaccine is best for you, your Superdrug travel nurse will be able to recommend the most suitable treatment for you.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection, which affects the human liver. The hepatitis A virus is usually ingested via contaminated food or water and is endemic to countries with an insufficient sanitation system. It can spread rapidly and is known to cause sudden epidemics. After an incubation period of 2 - 4 weeks, patients usually develop hepatitis A symptoms such as fever, digestive problems and jaundice. The severity of the symptoms varies in different people and can range from mild to very severe. In rare cases, hepatitis A can lead to complications such as cholestasis and liver failure.
Areas affected by hepatitis A include the South American continent, the African continent as well as most countries in Asia. The hepatitis risk in any area depends on local hygiene practices and the local sanitation system. People living in high risk areas usually contract hepatitis A early in their lives and develop immunity that protects them, which is why large outbreaks in high risk areas are quite rare. However, visitors travelling to these destinations have not previously been exposed to the illness and require a hepatitis A vaccine to stay healthy.
Whenever you travel to areas with an increased risk of viral or bacterial infections, you should follow a few simple rules to limit your exposure to local diseases. Most of these rules are easy to follow but at the same time very effective in reducing your risk of hepatitis A. It is best to be careful with foods if you do not know how they have been prepared and cooked. You should only drink boiled or bottled water and wash your hands very carefully after going to the toilet and before preparing food. If you think you have symptoms of hepatitis, always seek advice from a doctor.

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