Hepatitis A is a disease caused by the Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) and affects the liver. Hepatitis A is preventable. The virus is transmitted from human to human by the ingestion of food/water that has been contaminated by the fecal material of an infected person. Other routes of transmission include close contact or sexual contact with an infected person, the ingestion of water contaminated by sewage and shared needles. Unlike Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A does not become a chronic infection. A person can not contract Hepatitis A more than once. Conversely, as with Hepatitis B, some patients will show no symtoms of the disease. HAV is most prevalent in developing nations and areas where sanitation practices are of poor quality.
*This precautionary statement is made only for the purpose of preventing HAV transmission and is not one condoning the use of recreational drugs.
The Hepatitis A vaccine is a series of two injections given at days 0 and 180 (6 months). The immunizations have been shown to be effective up to 20 years duration. The vaccine becomes fully effective over a four week period. People planning to travel before fully immunized should consider receiving an immune globulin injection before embarking on their travels. Immune globulin boosts the immune system and lowers the infection rate if exposed. Those traveling to endemic areas regularly or are at greater risk should receive a booster at 1-2 years following the initial injections.
Currently, a combination vaccine (Twinrex®) can be given to persons 18 years of age and over. Twinex® has been shown to provide protection against both Hepatitis A & B, and is considered as effective as both vaccines when each is administered separately.
Hepatitis A has an incubation period of 15-50 days post-exposure. During that time, the virus can be spread to others. Some patients will not develop any symptoms of the disease. Those who do will usually experience a sudden onset and mistake these signs for severe intestinal influenza. Children are less likely to develop symptoms than are adults.
Symptoms of HAV include weakness/fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, low-grade fever, abdominal pain (with possible localization around the liver), "orange/brown" urine, jaundice, joint pain and itching. Not all patients will display all symptoms. Most patients improve over a short period of time and undergo no permenant damage to the liver. Approximately 10% of patients will experience a prolonged recovery or possible relapsing symptoms over a 6-9 month timeframe.
We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Hepatitis A
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