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What can I do to protect myself from hepatitis A?

What can I do to protect myself from hepatitis A?
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How to avoid catching hep A while on holiday abroad

The viral illness hepatitis A is a risk in any part of the world where sanitation is less than perfect. But there are easy steps travellers can take to reduce the chances of infection with this unpleasant disease.

Is hepatitis A dangerous?

For most people, hepatitis A is an unpleasant illness that lasts for a few months, with some relapses for up to six months. You may need to take time off work or school if you have hepatitis A. It is rarely fatal. But some people may get complications, particularly those who already have liver damage.

The Government of Canada has information about hepatitis A.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

People infected with hep A may have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • abdominal pain
  • dark urine
  • fatigue
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting

If you become unwell after your return from travel abroad, it’s best to see a doctor to rule out anything serious. Be sure to mention where you’ve been.

Where is hepatitis a risk?

Travellers to Africa, South and Central America, the Middle East, India and most of Asia may be exposed to hepatitis.

When you come for your travel health appointment six to eight weeks before departure, you can find out if your destination has a greater than usual risk from this viral disease.

Which travellers are at risk from hepatitis A?

People who have close contact with someone who has hep A are at increased risk of exposure to the virus. This includes sexual contact. People who use drugs, particularly those who share needles are at greater risk of hepatitis A.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people staying in budget accommodation may also be at risk from hep A. And if you try street food, this can also increase your risk of exposure.

How can I avoid hepatitis A on my vacation?

The first thing you can do to avoid catching hepatitis A is get vaccinated against it before you leave Canada. This will give a good degree of protection.

You can also take precautions about what you eat and drink. We have some articles with information about accessing safe food while traveling and also about safe drinking water.

What is the hepatitis A vaccine?

The hepatitis A vaccine can be given in two spaced doses to provide 25 years of protection. The first dose alone will give 10 years of protection. You can get vaccinated against hepatitis A in combination with a shot against hepatitis B. And there are pediatric versions of the hepatitis vaccine.

Where can I get the hepatitis A vaccine?

At Canadian Travel Clinics, we can administer the hepatitis A vaccine to travellers. It’s quick and easy to make an appointment, and we have plenty of slots at the start and end of the day so you don’t even have to take time out of your working day. Find your nearest clinic to make an appointment.