Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus.1,2 

A person who doesn’t have protection against the disease can become infected with hepatitis A by eating or drinking food or water infected with the virus. 1,2  Hepatitis A can be contracted directly from infected individuals or through contact with food, drinks or other items that have been contaminated with human waste (faeces) of an infected person, such as shellfish caught from sewage-polluted water, fruits and uncooked vegetables or even ice

Early symptoms include fever that quickly develops, generally feeling unwell, loss of appetite, nausea, discomfort in the stomach area and yellowing of the skin and/or eyes (jaundice) may also occur a few days after the first symptoms begin because of the resulting liver infection.  Hepatitis A does not cause long-term liver disease, and most people recover in less than two months.

Of all vaccine-preventable illnesses acquired through travel, hepatitis A is one of the most common.2

Hepatitis A FAQs

  • Hepatitis A – What is it?

    Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus.1,2  Hepatitis A occurs worldwide, with greater risk of infection in developing countries.1,2  Of all vaccine-preventable illnesses acquired through travel, hepatitis A is one of the most common.2

  • Hepatitis A - How is it spread?

    A person who doesn’t have protection against the disease can become infected with hepatitis A by eating or drinking food or water infected with the virus. 1,2  The hepatitis A virus can survive for up to 7 days in the environment and can survive in water for as long as 10 months.3  Hepatitis A can be contracted directly from infected individuals or through contact with food, drinks or other items that have been contaminated with human waste (faeces) of an infected person, such as shellfish caught from sewage-polluted water, fruits and uncooked vegetables or even ice.  A person infected with hepatitis A is contagious 2 weeks before and at least 1 week after symptoms develop; however, a few individuals may be contagious for considerably longer periods.6 

    The risk of infection is greater in developing countries where there are poor hygiene practices, poor sanitation conditions, and low-quality drinking water.3

  • Hepatitis A - What are the symptoms?

    The symptoms of hepatitis A infection range (depending on the age of the infected person), from a mild disease with few or no symptoms in children to more severe symptoms in older children and adults.  Early symptoms include fever that quickly develops, generally feeling unwell, loss of appetite, nausea, discomfort in the stomach area and yellowing of the skin and/or eyes (jaundice) may also occur a few days after the first symptoms begin because of the resulting liver infection.  Hepatitis A does not cause long-term liver disease, and most people recover in less than two months.6.  This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur with hepatitis A infection. If you feel unwell while travelling or when you return home, make sure you see your doctor or travel medicine specialist and let them know what countries you have visited.4

  • Hepatitis A – How is it prevented?

    Those who are not vaccinated against hepatitis A can get infected if they come in direct contact with food, drinks or other items that have been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person.1,2,3  Travellers to countries where hepatitis A infection is common should take care to avoid potentially contaminated food and water.1,2,5 Some recommendations include:5

    • Eat well cooked food only, but never reheated, especially with meats such as chicken and seafood (shellfish)
    • Eat food as hot as possible
    • Eat only fruits or vegetables you have washed and peeled yourself
    • Avoid leftovers (particularly if they have been reheated), unpasteurised dairy products, raw shellfish, sushi, cold cuts of meat, salads and peeled fruit
    • Avoid drinking tap water
    • Consider buying a good water filter for personal on-going water supplies
    • Only using bottled water (the seal must be intact) to drink and brush teeth
    • Ensure ice cubes are made from purified water. Never trust them unless you know where they came from

    An easy way to remember what to avoid is: if you cannot boil it, cook it or peel it — forget it5

    New Zealand health authorities strongly recommend complete vaccination against Hepatitis A for all travellers visiting moderate-risk to high-risk countries.6 

    Havrix®is a vaccine available in New Zealand to prevent hepatitis A:7

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