Latest information about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) risks
Public Health Scotland logo

Fit for Travel Logo

Information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad. About us.

Hepatitis A

Introduction

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. You catch hepatitis A by swallowing the virus in food or drink that contains it, or touching your mouth with your hands that have picked up the virus from touching infected poo.

Recommendations for Travellers

To protect yourself from hepatitis A when travelling, you need to:

Vaccination

Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended for:

  • all people travelling to countries where the risk of hepatitis A is high
  • certain people who are at higher risk of infection from their job or lifestyle, or have an increased chance of becoming severely ill with the infection, such as:
    • men who have sex with other men
    • people who inject illegal drugs
    • close contacts of someone with hepatitis A
    • people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job

Check the information on the specific country page you are travelling to. If you need a hepatitis A vaccine, this will be listed in the ‘immunisations’ section.

Two doses of a hepatitis A containing vaccine are usually needed to develop long term protection against hepatitis A virus.

There are several brands of hepatitis A vaccine available in the UK for adults:

The brands of hepatitis A vaccines available in the UK for children are:

Combined preparations with other vaccines are also available, such as:

Overview of the Disease

Hepatitis A is highly contagious, short term liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus.

The virus is found in the blood and poo of people when they are infected. If infected poo enters water supplies, then people who are drinking, swimming or washing in the water will get infected. If you eat fruit and vegetables washed in this water, you will catch the infection.

If people with hepatitis A cannot wash their hands after going to the toilet, they will transfer the virus to their hands and then to other objects or people that they touch. This can spread the infection.

Young children are at increased chance of catching hepatitis A during travel because they tend to put objects and their unclean hands in their mouth.

Hepatitis A occurs worldwide, mostly in countries where hygiene and sanitation is poor.

Most cases caught during travel from the UK occur in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

The Illness

Not everyone with hepatitis A infection gets symptoms and in those that do, they are mild. Older people and those who have a weakened immune system have a higher chance of severe hepatitis A infection.

The most common symptoms include:

  • feeling tired and generally unwell
  • a mild temperature (fever)
  • loss of appetite, feeling or being sick
  • sore or upset tummy, diarrhoea
  • itchy rash
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

For most people, symptoms usually clear up completely within a few days to weeks without causing any long term liver damage.

Rarely some people might go on to develop more serious symptoms which can cause the liver to stop functioning properly (liver failure).

People who recover from hepatitis A illness will develop lifelong immunity meaning they cannot catch it again.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A virus. You must see a doctor if you think you have the infection.

To relieve symptoms, you should try to:

  • get plenty of rest
  • drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated
  • talk to a pharmacist or GP for over the counter medications to relieve symptoms such as pain or itching

back to top