Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. You catch hepatitis A by swallowing the virus in food or drink that contains it, or touching your mouth with your hands that have picked up the virus from touching infected poo.
To protect yourself from hepatitis A when travelling, you need to:
- pay strict attention to your hand hygiene
- practice safe food and water precautions
- consider if you need to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A before you go
Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended for:
- all people travelling to countries where the risk of hepatitis A is high
- certain people who are at higher risk of infection from their job or lifestyle, or have an increased chance of becoming severely ill with the infection, such as:
- men who have sex with other men
- people who inject illegal drugs
- close contacts of someone with hepatitis A
- people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job
Check the information on the specific country page you are travelling to. If you need a hepatitis A vaccine, this will be listed in the ‘vaccinations’ section.
Two doses of a hepatitis A containing vaccine are usually needed to develop long term protection against hepatitis A virus.
At the time of writing, there are several brands of hepatitis A vaccine available for adults in the UK:
The brands of hepatitis A vaccines currently available in the UK for children are:
Combined preparations with hepatitis B are also available:
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious, short term liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus.
The virus is found in the blood and poo of people when they are infected. If infected poo enters water supplies, then people who are drinking, swimming or washing in that water will become infected. If you eat fruit and vegetables washed in this water, you will catch the infection.
If people with hepatitis A are unable to wash their hands after going to the toilet, they will transfer the virus to their hands and then to other objects or people that they touch. This can spread the infection.
Young children are at increased chance of catching hepatitis A during travel because they are more likely to put potentially contaminated objects and their unclean hands into their mouth.
Hepatitis A occurs worldwide, most often in countries where hygiene and sanitation is poor.
Not everyone with hepatitis A infection gets symptoms and in those that do, they are usually mild. However, older people and those who have a weakened immune system have a higher chance of severe hepatitis A infection.
The most common symptoms include:
- feeling tired and generally unwell
- a mild temperature (fever)
- loss of appetite, feeling or being sick
- sore or upset tummy, diarrhoea
- itchy rash
- yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
For most people, symptoms usually clear up completely within a few days to weeks without causing any long term liver damage.
Rarely, some people might go on to develop more serious symptoms which can cause the liver to stop functioning properly (known as liver failure).
People who recover from hepatitis A illness will develop lifelong immunity meaning they cannot catch it again.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A virus. You must see a doctor if you think you have the infection. Treatment is supportive.
To relieve symptoms, you should try to:
- get plenty of rest
- drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated
- talk to a pharmacist or GP for over the counter medications to relieve symptoms such as pain or itching