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Hepatitis A is caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). Worldwide there are an estimated 1.4 million cases of Hepatitis A infection every year. This highly contagious disease is spread through contaminated food and water including ice; breakdowns in sanitation due to natural disasters and floods; infected food handlers; ingestion of raw or undercooked shellfish harvested from sewage-contaminated waters; ingestion of uncooked and unpeeled fruits and vegetables. Although rare, it can be transmitted through blood transfusions, sexual relations or needle sharing.
Adult travelers are urged to receive at least the first injection before departure and a follow-up booster at 6 months. Twinrix combines Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B into a 3 dose series saving several needle sticks. Check with your Passport Health Travel Medicine Specialist to see which approach is best for you.
Distribution is global but infection is most common in areas where sanitation is poor and food and water safety is questionable. Hepatitis A is endemic throughout the underdeveloped world and it occurs in pockets in developed countries as well. The risk of infection for travelers to developing countries increases with extended stays. Areas of high risk for Hepatitis A include Africa, Mexico, the Middle East, Central and South America, Asia, and the Caribbean. Hepatitis A virus is also present in the Mediterranean basin and Eastern Europe where the risk of infection is greater for those who visit rural areas, the back country, or those who eat or drink in areas of poor sanitation.
One hepatitis A booster vaccine is needed to provide lifelong protection. The CDC recommends giving this booster six to twelve months after the first dose is received. However, the vaccine will provide protection for those first six months before the booster is given.
So, if you are asking yourself, "What travel shots and vaccinations do I need?" or "Where do I get the Hepatitis A Vaccine?" schedule an appointment with your local Passport Health travel medicine clinic.
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