Health Library

Protect Yourself From Hepatitis A When Traveling

Topic Overview

Immunization against the hepatitis A virus (HAV) is recommended for anyone traveling to any country or area except:1

  • Australia.
  • Canada.
  • Japan.
  • New Zealand.
  • The United States.
  • Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, and Finland).

Talk to your doctor before visiting any other areas.

If you plan to travel to a part of the world where sanitation is poor or where hepatitis A is a known problem, see your doctor about receiving the hepatitis A vaccinehepatitis A vaccine(What is a PDF document?), immunoglobulin (IG), or the combination hepatitis A and B vaccine. (Risk of hepatitis B increases if you go to a high-risk country frequently or stay for a long time.)

  • Completing the entire hepatitis A vaccination series protects against HAV for at least 25 years in adults and 14 years in children.2 In adults (people older than 18 years of age), it is best if the first shot is given at least 4 weeks before a person may be exposed to the hepatitis A virus. But the vaccine does provide some protection shortly after the first shot.3 A second shot should be given 6 to 18 months later to prolong protection. (Immunization with hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children beginning at 1 year of age. Two separate doses are given at least 6 months apart. The second shot should be given 6 to 18 months after the first shot.)
  • If you receive IG instead of the hepatitis A vaccine and are planning an extended stay in an area where hepatitis A is a problem, you should get a higher dose of IG. You will need to get additional injections of the same high dose of IG every 3 to 5 months.
  • Immunoglobulin is made from components of human blood. There is no risk of getting a blood-borne disease from IG made in the United States. The safety of IG manufactured in other countries cannot be guaranteed.
  • If you will be visiting countries where hepatitis A is a problem and you will be staying for less than 3 months, you will receive enough protection at a lower cost by choosing the IG injection. But if you plan to travel abroad on a regular basis, getting the vaccine will save you money long-term.
  • People who are allergic to the components of the hepatitis A vaccine and children younger than 1 year of age should receive IG.

When traveling in an area where hepatitis A is a known problem or where water quality is questionable:

  • Boil water before you drink it. Bring the water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. If you are at an elevation of 6562 ft (2000 m) or higher, boil the water for 3 minutes. Do not drink tap water or well water or beverages containing ice cubes.
  • Do not brush your teeth with tap water or well water.
  • Make sure all foods are cooked well, especially shellfish.
  • Eat only raw fruits and vegetables that you have washed in uncontaminated water and peeled yourself.
  • Don't swim in water that has not been treated with chlorine.
  • Don't drink bath or shower water.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Sharapov UM (2012). Infectious diseases related to travel: Hepatitis A. The Yellow Book: CDC Health Information for International Travel 2012. New York: Oxford University Press. Also available online: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-3-infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/hepatitis-a.htm.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008). Hepatitis A FAQs for health professionals. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HAV/HAVfaq.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Update: Prevention of hepatitis A after exposure to hepatitis A virus and in international travelers. Updated recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR, 56(RR-41): 1080–1084. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5641a3.htm.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology
Last Revised August 30, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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