Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease most commonly spread to humans through the consumption of contaminated food and water. The Hepatitis A virus is found in the feces of an infected person, and can easily be transferred during unsafe food handling practices.
Foods such as shellfish, unpeeled fruit, raw salads, and ice cubes can all be carriers of Hepatitis A. The disease is common in developing countries, particularly rural areas with poor sanitation systems and lack of access to clean water. In fewer cases, Hepatitis A can also be transmitted through needle sharing, blood transfusions, and sexual contact.
Hepatitis A has an incubation period of two weeks to 50 days. Not all those infected will show symptoms of the virus, and adults are more likely to display the signs than children. When they do occur, symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can include a fever, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, dark-coloured urine, and jaundice.
Hepatitis A is one of the most preventable illnesses for travellers. There is a vaccination for Hepatitis A alone, and another called Twinrix which combines the Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines.
For the Hepatitis A vaccine, it is recommended that adult travellers receive the first injection prior to departure and a booster shot within the following six months to three years. Reactions to the vaccination are rare, though the needle may cause minor soreness and redness at the site of injection.
The Twinrix vaccination is done in three doses and does not lead to any increased side effects. Contact your International Health Passport Specialist to see which vaccination is best for you.
According to the World Health Organizzation (WHO), hepatitis A occurs worldwide, although regions of high risk include: South and Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania. Travellers spending extended periods of time in these regions are at an increased risk.
Instances of Hepatitis A in Italy and the developed world are rare. Other than small community outbreaks, cases of the virus in Italy have been in steady decline since the early 2000’s.
Other than vaccination, there are several preventative measures that can be taken to protect yourself from Hepatitis A:
- Use best food preparation practises
- Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water after using the washroom and before eating or preparing food
- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for times when you may not be near a sink
To find out more about the Hepatitis A vaccination and other prevention methods, make an appointment with your Passport Health Travel Clinic today.