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Hepatitis A

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a liver disease that is usually spread by contaminated food and water.  It can also be spread from the hands of a person with hepatitis A. It is rarely spread through sexual contact.

Symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).  Some people have no symptoms, while others have symptoms that last 1-6 months. Most people recover with no lasting liver damage.

Who is at risk?

Hepatitis A is a common infection among travelers to developing countries. Travelers going to rural areas in developing countries have a higher risk of getting hepatitis A infections than other travelers. However, hepatitis A infections can even happen in urban areas with tourist accommodations.

People 1 year of age and older who are traveling to or working in countries where they will be at risk for hepatitis A virus should strongly consider the Hepatitis A vaccine.  

What can travelers do to prevent disease?

Get a hepatitis A vaccine:

  • The hepatitis A vaccine is given in 2 doses, 6 months apart. The vaccine is nearly 100% effective and has been a routine childhood vaccine in the United States since 2005.

Eat safe foods and beverages.

Practice hygiene and cleanliness:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who are sick.

Page reviewed on: Mar 09, 2017

Page reviewed by: Jessie L. Leyse, MD

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