Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is caught through contaminated food and water, or through person-to-person contact if personal hygiene is poor.
High-risk areas for hepatitis A include:
- Central America
- Eastern Europe
- the Far East
- South America
The Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for:
- anyone travelling to high-risk areas for a long time, particularly if sanitation and food hygiene are likely to be poor
- anyone going to live or stay for a long time in a country where hepatitis A is constantly present
- anyone with chronic liver disease, because hepatitis A can be more serious for people with this condition
Vaccination is not considered necessary if you are travelling to northern or western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand or Japan.
A single injection of the vaccine should be given two weeks before you leave, although it can be given up to the day of your departure if necessary. This will protect you against hepatitis A for about a year. A booster dose, given 6–12 months after the first, will protect you for at least 20 years.
A combined hepatitis A and B vaccine and a combined hepatitis A and typhoid vaccine are also available. These vaccines may be useful if you require protection against both diseases.
The hepatitis A vaccine cannot be given to babies younger than one.