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Travel Advice for Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that can cause inflammation of the liver. The disease is common in many low-income or less-developed nations but can be found anywhere. It’s recommended that everyone 12 months and older receive a Hepatitis A vaccine to prevent infection.

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Are you planning to travel abroad soon? Keep reading to see what preparations expats, digital nomads, and other travelers should take against Hepatitis A before adventuring abroad!

In this article, we’ll explain what Hepatitis A is, its symptoms, and other key information travelers should know. We’ll also offer links to places where quality medical insurance can be found for tourists and expats alike.

When finished with this article, check out the 14 most common diseases while traveling abroad!

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable viral infection. The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) may cause liver inflammation and rarely acute liver failure. Symptoms are more severe in adults than in children. 

Many people may describe the common symptoms as “flu-like” symptoms.

HAV, like some of the other dieases associated with travel, can be prevented by taking precautions and planning ahead when traveling to high risk areas. 

Countries With Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is found all over the world. However, it is most prevalent in developing countries like India, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa. This is because poor hygiene and inadequate water treatment make the disease spread quickly.

Hepatitis A is also found in low-income populations within developed countries. The United States experiences Hepatitis A outbreaks in the homeless population where sanitization is a concern.

For travelers and digital nomads headed to Singapore, find out about vaccination coverage there.

Hepatitis A Travel Restrictions

Currently, there are no travel restrictions to any areas or countries due to Hepatitis A. Check with the CDC or a healthcare provider for updates on outbreaks.

Hepatitis A Internal Organ Diagram

Is Hepatitis A Contagious?

The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is highly contagious. HAV spread is associated with unsafe food or water, poor personal hygiene, inadequate sanitization, and oral-anal sex. In families, it may spread quickly with poor handwashing before food preparation.

Individuals with the infection are contagious for up to two weeks before developing symptoms.

How does Hepatitis A Spread?

The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) spreads by the fecal-oral route. HAV infection may occur in unvaccinated individuals without immunity. It spreads between people who are in close contact and through contaminated food and water. The virus may also be spread by asymptomatic people with the infection. 

Poor hygiene and sanitization easily result in outbreaks. When there is wide-scale contamination of food or water, epidemics may occur where hundreds of thousands of people are infected at once.

Waterborne outbreaks are usually the result of poor water treatment practices or contamination by raw sewage. This is more likely to happen in places where many people, like children, are infected without symptoms.

How to Avoid Hepatitis A While Traveling Abroad

The best way to avoid Hepatitis A while traveling abroad is to complete the Hepatitis A vaccine series. Speak with your healthcare provider about whether or not you have all of the necessary vaccines for your upcoming travels.

Find out more about common diseases while traveling to ask your questions with your upcoming pre-travel appointment. Your healthcare provider will make sure you’re prepared.

You can also ensure you’re prepared for any illness by finding health insurance coverage for your destination.

Hepatitis A Vaccine

In the United States, a two-dose vaccine for Hepatitis A is available for everyone aged 12 months and older. The vaccine effectively prevents infection. In the United States, the Hepatitis A vaccine is included in the recommended vaccination schedule for all children and adults.

Specific vaccine recommendations from the CDC include

In the United Kingdom, the Hepatitis A vaccine is available for travelers heading to higher risk countries. The UK also has a combination vaccine that contains Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid specifically for travelers headed to areas with all three diseases.

Vaccines may be covered by health insurance. Find out which vaccinations are covered by health insurance abroad.

What Happens if a Tourist Gets Sick Abroad With Hepatitis A?

Symptoms for Hepatitis A may appear two to seven weeks after exposure. Travelers should alert their healthcare providers if they are exposed. If given within two weeks after exposure, prophylactic treatments are available.

Hepatitis A Common Symptoms

Common Symptoms of Hepatitis A

The most common symptoms of Hepatitis A include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, yellow eyes, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain. 

Infected people may display some symptoms or no symptoms, and symptoms may be mild to severe. 

Symptoms appear between 2 and 7 weeks after exposure and may persist for up to 2-6 months. Some people may require hospitalization. In rare instances, Hepatitis A infection can lead to liver failure. 

Some symptoms, like nausea and lack of appetite, may be caused by other diseases, like typhoid fever. Liver complications may be found in chronic cases of Schistosomiasis.

Common Treatments for Hepatitis A

Once someone exhibits symptoms of Hepatitis A, there is no treatment available. Rarely, adults may need hospitalization for acute liver failure due to Hepatitis A.

The World Health Organization recommends avoiding anti-nausea drugs, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and unnecessary medications during infection.

However, someone exposed to Hepatitis A can receive postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) for up to two weeks after exposure to prevent infection. PEP includes either the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin therapy. According to the CDC, the best PEP is the Hepatitis A vaccine.

Conclusion

A Hepatitis A infection could really spoil your fun abroad, but with a little preparation before your excursion, you can prevent a Hepatitis A infection by receiving the vaccine. For those unable to receive the vaccine, speak to your healthcare provider about immunoglobulin treatment.

For anyone leaving their country of residence, you can ensure your health needs are covered by looking into travel health insurance for short stays or international health insurance for longer ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to isolate if I catch Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A infections are highly contagious. Frequent proper handwashing is very important to prevent the spread. Notify your healthcare provider if you are infected with Hepatitis A to determine the most current recommendations for protecting others. 

How long before travel do I need to get the Hepatitis A vaccine?

Ideally, you should get the Hepatitis A vaccine with adequate time to get both doses. The doses are supposed to be spaced at least six months apart. If you don’t have time, getting at least one is better than none. Speak with your healthcare provider.

What do I have to avoid with a Hepatitis A infection?

Hepatitis A can be taxing for the liver. Alcohol or medications metabolized by the liver, like acetaminophen, should be avoided. Speak with your pharmacist or doctor to find out a more comprehensive list.

Does Hepatitis A have to be reported?

In the United States, medical facilities have to report cases of Hepatitis A to the appropriate reporting agency. However, employees do not have to disclose protected health information to their employers.

Content Creator at Pacific Prime
Martin is a writer and translator with over 10 years of experience. He writes articles and blog posts, creates infographics and videos, translates between Chinese and English, and more. Skilled at explaining complicated concepts in layman’s terms, Martin believes the gold standard of translation is attained when the translated text is not only accurate, but also reads like an original text. Martin holds a degree in Economics from the University of London, UK.

Since joining Pacific Prime, Martin has become even more aware of the gap between the true value of insurance products and most people’s appreciation of it, and developed a passion for demystifying and simplifying matters, so that more people get the protection they need at a cost they can easily afford.

In his free time, Martin attends concerts of various genres, and plays the violin with piano accompaniment he pre-recorded himself or played live by his niece.
Martin Lee