Hepatitis A is a viral infection that primarily affects the liver. It is transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food or water or through close contact with an infected person. Hepatitis A is a common cause of viral hepatitis worldwide and it can occur as sporadic cases or as outbreaks.
The symptoms of hepatitis A can range from mild to severe. Some individuals may experience no symptoms at all. Common symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine and clay-coloured stools. Symptoms usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after exposure to the virus.
Hepatitis A is primarily spread through the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. It can also be transmitted through close personal contact with an infected individual or through sexual contact with an infected person.
Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent hepatitis A. The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for individuals at increased risk, including travellers to areas with a higher prevalence of the disease, individuals with chronic liver disease, men who have sex with men, illicit drug users, and healthcare workers. Good hygiene practices, such as thorough handwashing, consuming safe food and water, and practicing safe sex, can also help prevent the spread of the virus.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Most individuals with hepatitis A recover on their own within a few weeks to months. Treatment focuses on supportive care to relieve symptoms and promote liver healing. It is important to rest, stay hydrated, avoid alcohol and certain medications, and follow a healthy diet.
Travellers to regions with a higher prevalence of hepatitis A, especially areas with poor sanitation and hygiene practices, should consider getting vaccinated before their trip. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or a travel medicine specialist to assess the need for vaccination based on the specific travel plans and individual risk factors.
The hepatitis A vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent hepatitis A infection. Here are some important points about the hepatitis A vaccine:
The hepatitis A vaccine is typically given as a series of two doses. The first dose is administered, and then a booster dose is given 6 to 12 months later. In certain situations, an accelerated schedule may be followed, with the second dose given within 1 month of the first dose. The vaccine provides long-term protection against hepatitis A.
Who Should Get Vaccinated
The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for various groups of people, including:
- All children at the age of 1 year (the vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule in many countries)
- Travellers to areas with a higher prevalence of hepatitis A, especially regions with poor sanitation and hygiene practices
- Individuals with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C
- Men who have sex with men
- Individuals who inject drugs
- Individuals with clotting factor disorders
- People with close contact to individuals with hepatitis A
- Those who are at risk due to their occupation (e.g., healthcare workers)
The hepatitis A vaccine is highly effective in preventing hepatitis A infection. It provides immunity to the virus, reducing the risk of illness and complications associated with the disease.
In some countries, a combination vaccine known as Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B combination vaccine is available. This combination vaccine offers protection against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B viruses.
The hepatitis A vaccine is generally safe. Like any vaccine, it can have mild side effects, such as soreness at the injection site or a low-grade fever. Serious side effects are rare.
In addition to vaccination, practicing good hygiene, including thorough handwashing, consuming safe food and water and practicing safe sex, can help reduce the risk of hepatitis A infection.
It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider or a travel medicine specialist to assess your need for hepatitis A vaccination based on your individual circumstances, travel plans and any underlying health conditions. They can provide specific recommendations and guidance regarding the hepatitis A vaccine and its administration.