Hepatitis A and B

SafeGard Travel Medicine physicians routinely recommend hepatitis A and B vaccines for travelers when indicated. The travel pharmacies we work with provide both combination Twinrix or individual hepatitis A or B vaccines.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that is primarily spread through contaminated food and water. Infected food handlers in eating establishments often contribute to the spread the disease. Signs and symptoms include sudden fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting, stomach pain, darkened urine and yellowing of the skin and eyes. While not all people develop symptoms, they generally last one to six months. Most people recover without any lasting damage to the liver.

Hepatitis B is a viral liver disease that is primarily spread through exposure to contaminated blood and other bodily fluids while engaging in sex, sharing needles or being treated with contaminated medical devices or products. Signs and symptoms are similar to hepatitis A but may last several months and may develop into chronic liver disease which predisposes one to death from liver disease or liver cancer.

How can I prevent hepatitis?

Common sense practices, such as eating safe foods, drinking safe water and observing good hygiene, are always important when traveling. Practicing safe sex and avoiding potentially contaminated needles or other medical devices or products are also important. Our physicians will generally recommend one or both of these vaccines depending upon your past shot history, your itinerary and the types of activities with which you will be involved. A combination vaccine, Twinrix, may be offered if you need both vaccines.

Who should get the vaccine?

It is recommended that all travelers be protected against hepatitis A and B. While there are risks in all countries, travelers to developing countries, especially rural areas, are at greater risk of hepatitis A; and hepatitis B is a potential risk whenever high risk behaviors are practiced or sub-standard medical care may need to be accessed.