- Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness.
- Globally, there are an estimated 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A every year.
- The hepatitis A virus is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water, or through direct contact with an infectious person.
- Hepatitis A is associated with a lack of safe water and poor sanitation.
- Children contracting Hepatitis A might have no or very few symptoms but those above the age of 60 can be fatal.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is primarily spread when an uninfected (and unvaccinated) person ingests food or water that is contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. The disease is closely associated with a lack of safe water, inadequate sanitation and poor personal hygiene. That is why it is a major problem in most developing countries.
The incubation period of hepatitis A is usually 14 – 28 days.
Symptoms of hepatitis A range from mild to severe, and can include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-coloured urine and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). Not everyone who is infected will have all of the symptoms.
Adults have signs and symptoms of illness more often than children, and the severity of disease and mortality increases in older age groups. Infected children under six years of age do not usually experience noticeable symptoms, and only 10% develop jaundice. Among older children and adults, infection usually causes more severe symptoms, with jaundice occurring in more than 70% of cases.
Vaccination against hepatitis A should be part of a comprehensive plan for the prevention and control of viral hepatitis. As it occurs in most parts of the world, should be considered by almost all travellers. The vaccine can be taken even the day of the trip and gives a good protection.