Summer vacations are on the horizon and staying healthy while traveling is important to make the most of your trip. For travelers staying within the U.S. who might be concerned about eating and drinking in new places, you may be wondering about the hepatitis A vaccine.
Introduced in 1995, the vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Family Physicians when traveling outside of the U.S. due to concerns about food and water safety. It is also recommended for people in certain high-risk groups. The American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending the vaccine in 1999, which makes it likely that those younger than 21 have already received the vaccine. Given in a two-dose series, the immunity is life-long and does not require a booster.
“If you’re traveling outside of the U.S., you should talk to your doctor to see if vaccination is indicated or look online at the CDC’s vaccination recommendations based on where you are traveling,” said Hylke Snieder, MD, a resident physician at Samaritan Family Medicine Residency Clinic. “But unless your doctor has identified you as high risk, neither the CDC nor the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend the hepatitis A vaccine as a general preventive measure for traveling within the U.S.”
Hepatitis A is highly contagious and is transmitted through the feces of an infected person. According to the CDC, hepatitis A is transmitted in two ways: through person-to-person contact such as sexual contact, illicit drug use, poor sanitation such as using the bathroom and not washing your hands; or by consuming food or water that has come in contact with contaminated feces. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, nausea, dark urine, joint pain and jaundice. The infection is typically mild and usually doesn’t require treatment, and usually goes away on its own within several weeks to several months for more severe cases.
High-risk individuals, such as those with existing liver conditions or who are immunocompromised, are at a greater risk for a severe infection and may require more intensive medical care if they become ill.
“People in high risk groups should talk to their doctor about being vaccinated,” said Snieder. “But if you don’t fall into one of those groups, adults do not need to be vaccinated in order to travel within the U.S.”
Make an appointment with Samaritan’s International Travel Clinic for more information about the vaccinations you need when you travel or visit the CDC’s travel website.
Learn more about hepatitis A and how it differs from other kinds of hepatitis.