Hepatitis A is the second most common vaccine preventable infection in travellers, influenza being most common,1 and the most common form of viral hepatitis.2 It is an acute liver infection caused by a hepatovirus of the Picornavirus family, the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A virus is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus shed in large quantities in the stool of infected persons. It can survive for weeks in water, marine sediment, shellfish or soil, and can persist on the hands for several hours and much longer in food kept at room temperature. It is also resistant to heat and freezing.3,4–6
This article is the final in our travel medicine series for 2010, providing a summary of
prevention strategies and vaccinations for infections that may be acquired by travellers.
The series aims to provide practical strategies to assist general practitioners in giving travel
advice, as a synthesis of multiple information sources which must otherwise be consulted.
Hepatitis A is the second most common vaccine preventable infection in travellers.
Highly effective vaccines exist for its prevention for travellers from 12 months of age,
including last minute travellers and those in special risk groups.
Information about hepatitis A infection, its epidemiology and existing vaccine options is
presented for use in travel related consultations in general practice.
Most travellers at risk of hepatitis A should be vaccinated, as the vaccine is a safe and
effective means of prevention. Combination vaccines – hepatitis A/hepatitis B and
hepatitis A/typhoid – aim to facilitate the vaccination process for travellers, who are
often also at risk of exposure to hepatitis B and typhoid fever.
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