What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a liver disease spread by contaminated food and water. It can also be spread from the hands of a person with hepatitis A. It is rarely spread through sexual contact.
Symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Some people have no symptoms, while others have symptoms that last 1-6 months. Most people recover with no lasting liver damage.
Who is at risk?
Hepatitis A is a common infection among travelers to developing countries. Travelers going to rural areas in developing countries have a higher risk of getting hepatitis A infections than other travelers. However, hepatitis A infections can happen in urban areas with “standard” tourist accommodations as well.
People 1 year of age and older who are traveling to or working in countries where they would have a high or intermediate risk of hepatitis A virus, should strongly consider the Hepatitis A vaccine. These areas include all parts of the world except Canada, western Europe and Scandinavia, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.
What can travelers do to prevent disease?
Get a hepatitis A vaccine:
- Ask your doctor or nurse about hepatitis A vaccine.
- The hepatitis A vaccine is given in 2 doses, 6 months apart. The vaccine is nearly 100% effective and has been a routine childhood vaccine in the United States since 2005.
- See Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) for more information.
Eat safe foods:
- Food that is cooked and served hot
- Hard-cooked eggs
- Fruits and vegetables you have washed in clean water or peeled yourself
- Pasteurized dairy products
- Food served at room temperature
- Food from street vendors
- Raw or soft-cooked (runny) eggs
- Raw or undercooked (rare) meat or fish
- Unwashed or unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables
- Peelings from fruit or vegetables
- Condiments (such as salsa) made with fresh ingredients
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- ”Bushmeat” (monkeys, bats, or other wild game)
Drink safe beverages:
- Bottled water that is sealed (carbonated is safer)
- Water that has been disinfected (boiled, filtered, treated)
- Ice made with bottled or disinfected water
- Carbonated drinks
- Hot coffee or tea
- Pasteurized milk
- Tap or well water
- Ice made with tap or well water
- Drinks made with tap or well water (such as reconstituted juice)
- Flavored ice and popsicles
- Unpasteurized milk
For more information see Food and Water Safety.
Practice hygiene and cleanliness:
- Wash your hands often.
- If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
- Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who are sick.