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Hepatitis A

Learn more about the condition

Off on your travels? Make sure you’re in the know about all the vaccinations you may need. Here we explain the signs, symptoms, treatments and vaccinations for hepatitis A.


What is hepatitis A and how do you catch it?

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus. It’s usually spread via the stool of someone infected. Parts of the world with poor sanitation, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs are most at risk of contracting the infection.

Generally the areas with the highest cases of hepatitis A are those where sanitation and food hygiene are poor. These include parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinents, the Far East, the Middle East and Central and South America.

You can contract hepatitis A in a number of ways:

• From someone with the infection not washing their hands thoroughly and preparing food which you eat

• Washing hands in contaminated water and preparing food that you eat

• Drinking contaminated water (including ice cubes)

• Eating raw or undercooked seafood sourced from contaminated water

• Being in close contact with someone who has the infection

• Having intercourse with someone with the infection (particularly men who have sex with men)

• Injecting drugs using contaminated equipment

The infection is at its most contagious stage in the two weeks before symptoms appear, up until about a week after the symptoms first show.


Signs and symptoms

Hepatitis A symptoms usually develop approximately four weeks after becoming infected, however some people don’t experience any.

Symptoms include:

• Feeling tired

• Generally feeling unwell

• Pain in joints and muscles

• High temperature

• Decrease or loss of appetite

• Nausea or vomiting

• Tummy pain in the upper-right area

• Yellowing of skin and eyes

• Dark urine and pale stools

• Itchy skin

Symptoms usually subside within a couple of months. If you have symptoms, it’s always best to speak to your GP.


Treatment

Although there’s no cure for hepatitis A, it will normally pass on its own within a couple of months. If you’re struggling with any symptoms or you haven’t started to improve within a couple of months, speak to your GP for further advice.


Vaccination

The hepatitis A vaccine isn’t routinely given because the risk is so low in the UK, but if you are travelling to a country with a risk of the disease, vaccination is recommended.


How long does hepatitis A vaccination last?

A booster is recommended after 6-12 months to provide protection for 25 years.


Our service

For a free assessment, expert advice and vaccinations, book an appointment online with Boots Travel Vaccinations and Health Advice Service. Ideally, this should be six to eight weeks before departure, but it’s never too late to seek advice if you're leaving sooner.