Hepatitis A

Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski-Kelner

Hepatitis A is also known as infectious jaundice. It is a liver infection that is caused by a virus.

The disease is transmitted via food, drinks or objects that have been contaminated by faeces from infected individuals.

Hepatitis A is common in travellers. However, people who were born before 1950 are usually immune, because they had the disease as a child. If there is any doubt, a blood test can be performed to check for antibodies.

The following symptoms can occur several weeks after the infection:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice
  • Sometimes fever
  • Sometimes abdominal pain

Most of the disease symptoms disappear after several weeks, but the fatigue can often persist for months. Young children generally experience few or no symptoms, but older people can suffer severe and prolonged illness. 

Risk areas

Hepatitis A occurs all over the world, but the risk of infection is higher in countries with a poor standard of hygiene. This is the case for most tropical and subtropical countries and a number of countries in Eastern Europe and surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Belgian children get the infection regularly during family visits in Morocco.

Prevention

Vaccination

A safe and very effective vaccine is available.

The vaccination consists of two injections administered at an interval of at least six months. 

The first vaccination offers at least one year of protection, with lifelong protection following the second vaccination. 

Please note that the combined hepatitis A and B vaccine contains a lower dose of hepatitis A. The vaccination plan for this vaccine consists of three doses, two of which must be administered before travelling. 

For high-risk countries, vaccination is recommended for everyone who has not had the disease. For countries with a lower risk, vaccination is only recommended when staying in less hygienic conditions.

In case of symptoms

Seek medical advice if you suffer any symptoms.

Additional information for doctors

General information

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