Related Travel Health Notices
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a disease that occurs worldwide. It is common in developing countries and is generally associated with poor sanitation and poor hygiene. The hepatitis A virus attacks the liver and can cause mild to severe illness. It is one of the most common vaccine-preventable illnesses in travellers.
Hepatitis A virus.
Risk to travellers
Depends on factors such as destination, duration, and living conditions.
Higher among travellers visiting areas where hepatitis A is endemic.
Hepatitis A is highest among travellers:
- visiting rural areas
- eating and drinking in locations with poor sanitation
- drinking untreated water, eating contaminated uncooked foods (e.g. shellfish), or food prepared in unsanitary conditions
Travellers going for short periods of time to areas where hepatitis A is endemic and staying at luxury hotels or engaging in low risk activities such as attending conferences are still at risk.
Some people who are infected with hepatitis A have no symptoms, especially children.
When symptoms occur, they are usually mild and can last from one to two weeks.
Severe cases of hepatitis A can last several months.
Severity increases with age.
Not usually as serious as hepatitis B.
On rare occasions, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death. Those with pre-existing chronic liver conditions are more at risk.
Practise safe food and water precautions.
There is no medication to treat hepatitis A.
People generally recover in four to six weeks, but in some cases may feel sick for several months.
- Can take from 15 to 50 days to occur (average 28 days).
- In children are mild to non-existent. Severity increases with age.
- Often start suddenly, and can include:
- loss of appetite
- abdominal discomfort
- dark urine
- jaundice (yellowing of skin and whites of eyes)
- In severe and rare occasions, can include liver damage, liver failure, or death. Those with pre-existing chronic liver disease or recipients of a liver transplant are most at risk for this.
- Most people recover without consequences. Recovery generally takes about four to six weeks, but can take months.
- Hepatitis A is spread from the feces of an infected person.
- People can catch hepatitis A by drinking untreated water, eating contaminated uncooked foods (e.g. shellfish), or eating foods prepared in unsanitary conditions.
- Can be transmitted person-to-person when poor fecal hygiene is practised (e.g. between children or during certain sexual practices).
- Infection with the virus gives life long immunity (protection) against the virus.
- Worldwide but most common in regions with poor food and water hygiene.
- Regions where there is a high risk of hepatitis A transmission include:
- Indian sub-continent (especially India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal)
- The Middle East
- parts of the Far East (excluding Japan)
- Central and South America
A map of countries and areas of risk for heptitis A is available on the World Health Organization website.
Consult a doctor, nurse or health care provider, or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
You should get vaccinated if you are:
- travelling to countries where Hepatitis A occurs.
- visiting areas where drinking water may be unsafe and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions exist.
- Hepatitis A, World Health Organization (WHO)
- Hepatitis A Fact Sheet, Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
- Statement on Hepatitis Vaccines for Travellers, Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel (CATMAT)
- Date modified: