Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that attacks the liver – and it is easily spread by contaminated food and water, or from another person with Hepatitis A (HAV). It is one of the most common vaccine-preventable infections acquired during travel. Your biggest risk factor? International travel. The risk for US residents traveling abroad varies with living conditions, your length of stay, and the incidence of HAV infection in the area visited.
Your risk of becoming infected with the Hepatitis A virus is highest when living in or visiting rural areas, backcountry treks, and eating or drinking in settings with poor sanitation protocols, but it can occur any place. The Hepatitis A virus is at peak levels 1-2 weeks before you feel ill and diminishes rapidly after liver dysfunction or symptoms appear. Infants and children can shed (and spread) the Hepatitis A virus for up to 6 months after infection.
Any individual who has not been vaccinated should consider this vaccine – the risk is present in all parts of the world except North America, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. Individuals traveling for international adoption should be advised Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all previously unvaccinated household members and others who anticipate close contact with an adoptee.