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HealthInfo Canterbury

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus, which spreads through contact with infected faeces (poos), either from an infected person or through contaminated food or water. It is not very common in New Zealand, and mainly affects people who are travelling overseas.

Some people with hepatitis A may have few or no symptoms, while others may be unwell with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, nausea (feeling sick), tummy pain, loss of appetite and tiredness. After this their skin and the whites of their eyes may become yellow (also called jaundice). The jaundice usually clears after one to three weeks.

People with hepatitis A are most infectious (likely to pass the virus on) in the two weeks before they get jaundice until one week after they got it.

If you think you may have hepatitis A you can have a blood test to check. There is no specific treatment, but most people with hepatitis A make a complete recovery.

How to prevent hepatitis A

The best was to avoid hepatitis A is to be vaccinated, keep your hands clean, and pay attention to food safety.

Health officials recommend that people who are travelling to countries with high levels of hepatitis A are vaccinated against it before they go. At-risk countries usually have poor sanitation and hygiene, and include countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East.

Some other people who are also at higher risk should also be vaccinated against hepatitis A. They include healthcare workers, sewerage workers, food handlers, daycare staff, and men who have sex with men.

You can get the vaccination from your GP, but you will probably have to pay for it.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated July 2017.

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Travel

Page reference: 55302

Review key: HIHPA-55302