What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection, which affects the human liver.
The hepatitis A virus is usually ingested via contaminated food or water and is endemic to countries with an insufficient sanitation system and poor access to clean food and water. It can spread rapidly and is known to cause sudden epidemics.
After an incubation period of 2 – 4 weeks, patients usually develop hepatitis A symptoms such as fever, digestive problems and jaundice. The severity of the symptoms vary in different people and can range from mild to very severe. In rare cases, hepatitis A can lead to complications such as cholestasis (an interruption to bile excretion) and liver failure. According to the World Health Organisation, every year there are about 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A worldwide.
Areas affected by hepatitis A include the South American continent, the African continent as well as most countries in Asia. The hepatitis risk in any area depends on local hygiene practices and the local sanitation system.
The following increase your risk of contracting hepatitis A:
lack of safe water
use of recreational drugs
living in a household with an infected person
being a sexual partner of someone with acute hepatitis A infection
travelling to areas of high endemicity without being immunised
People living in high risk areas usually contract hepatitis A early in their lives and develop immunity that protects them, which is why large outbreaks in high risk areas are quite rare. However, visitors travelling to these destinations have not previously been exposed to the illness and are therefore at a higher risk of infection.
Whenever you travel to areas with an increased risk of viral or bacterial infections, you should follow a few simple rules to limit your exposure to local diseases. Most of these rules are easy to follow and very effective in reducing your risk of hepatitis A. It is best to be careful with foods if you do not know how they have been prepared and cooked. You should only drink boiled or bottled water and wash your hands very carefully after going to the toilet and before preparing food. If you think you have symptoms of hepatitis, always seek advice from a doctor.
After the injection, your skin around the injection site may harden and you may experience soreness or swelling. This is a very common side effect, along with feeling a little tired after the vaccine or temporarily having a high temperature.
Common side effects include:
disturbances of the gut such as diarrhoea
vomiting or abdominal pain
loss of appetite
How long does immunity last for?
Single dose - 1 year
Booster dose - 10-25 years
One single injection - Provides protection for 1 year.
Booster dose is required (1-3 years post first dose)
Hepatitis A Adult, Single Dose: £68
Hepatitis A Child, Havrix jr, Single Dose: £65
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B ADULT - 3 courses, £99/dose
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B CHILDREN - 3 courses, £75/dose
Hepatitis A and Typhoid - One injection (followed by Hepatitis A booster), £115/dose
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