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Hepatitis A is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus.
Hepatitis A is rare in New Zealand, but if you’re planning to travel overseas, you may be at risk. Check the Prevention tab for information on hepatitis A vaccination.
How it’s spread
If you’ve caught hepatitis A, it will take two to six weeks for the symptoms to show up.
The virus is spread by contact with the faeces (poos) of an infected person. It can be passed on through:
- close personal contact – including sexual
- poor personal hygiene (such as when people don’t wash their hands properly)
- sharing personal things with an infected person (toothbrushes, facecloths, towels, etc)
- contaminated food – including shellfish, from infected sewage.
The most infectious period for hepatitis A is usually from two weeks before jaundice shows until one week after.
Early symptoms of hepatitis A infection can be mistaken for the flu. Some people, especially children, may have no symptoms at all.
As the illness develops, the symptoms are:
- abdominal discomfort
- dark urine.
See your doctor if you think you might have hepatitis A. There’s a blood test which can check for the disease.
Hepatitis A is rare in New Zealand, but if you’re planning to travel, you should consider getting immunised. Vaccination against hepatitis A is available at a cost.
Immunisation is recommended for people planning to travel in high- or moderate-risk areas.
- High-risk areas include Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Middle East.
- Moderate-risk areas include the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe (including Russia) and parts of the Pacific.
Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in having the vaccine.
Risks associated with hepatitis A
- The case fatality rate is 1.8 percent in adults over the age of 50 years.
Risks associated with the vaccine
- No serious adverse events among children or adults can be attributed to the vaccine.
Immunisation is your choice. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or practice nurse or call the Immunisation Advisory Centre free helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).
Hepatitis A B C
Available on HealthEd.
Better Health Channel
Consumer health information from the Victoria (Australia) state government.
Advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for New Zealanders travelling or living overseas.