Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is the most common vaccine-preventable disease in travelers. It causes inflammation of the liver and can cause loss of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, joint pain, and muscle pain. Due to the fact that it affects the liver, it can also cause dark urine and jaundice, especially in younger people.  Recovery from the disease usually takes about 4-6 weeks but 10-15% of cases take up to 6 months. 25% of cases lead to hospitalization.

How is Hepatitis A spread?

The virus is most often spread through contaminated food including shellfish as well as ice, water, and other foods contaminated by fecal material from infected persons with poor hygienic habits. The chances of being infected with Hepatitis A are higher in areas with poor sanitary conditions. Also, it is important to know that if you are traveling in rural areas, and will be in frequent contact with children, you are at higher risk of coming into contact with the virus. In areas where the disease is common, the best precaution someone can take is to get vaccinated for Hepatitis A.

Where can you get Hepatitis A?

Higher risk countries for Hepatitis A infection include most Asian countries, Central and Southern America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.  A map of countries at higher risk created by the World Health Organization is here.

What can I do to avoid getting Hepatitis A?

  • Get vaccinated.  Travellers to higher risk countries as mentioned above, including commonly visited resort destinations such as Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, should strongly consider getting vaccinated.
  • Practice good hygiene in order to prevent catching or spreading the virus to others. This includes proper hand sanitization, especially when using the restroom, and being knowledgeable about the preparation of your food and drinks so that you can best avoid contact with the virus.

Additional notes about the Hepatitis A vaccine

  • Typically, most people need two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine.  The first dose is given prior to travel and second dose is usually given six to 12 months later.  You only need to get the first dose prior to travel.
  • While it would probably be ideal to get the Hepatitis A vaccine a couple of weeks before you travel, you likely would still have adequate protection if you received the vaccine even the day before you leave.
  • Once you complete the two doses at the appropriate schedule, you should have immunity for 10 years and likely even longer than that.
  • There is a children’s version of the Hepatitis A vaccine that is given to children from 1 year old to 15 years old.  The two dose schedule is the same as for an adult.  Hepatitis A vaccine is not approved for use in children under 1 year old.
  • Hepatitis A vaccine is not part of the childhood public vaccination program.  Sometimes there is a bit of confusion about this because the Hepatitis B vaccine is part of the program.

Polaris Travel Clinic and Pharmacy in Airdrie offers Hepatitis A vaccinations.  To book an appointment, click here.


The services and content provided by Polaris Travel Clinic and Pharmacy in this website are made available and distributed on an “as is” basis. The services and its contents are being used at your own risk.  In no event shall Polaris Travel Clinic and Pharmacy be liable for any damage, liability, loss or claim or for any indirect, incidental or consequential damages arising from the use of the services or contents of this website. Prior to any travel, Polaris Travel Clinic and Pharmacy recommends you consult with a travel health practitioner who can work collaboratively with your family doctor, especially if you have underlying health problems. Knowing the health risks of traveling in foreign countries is the best prevention.