Hepatitis is a condition where the liver is inflamed. Hepatitis also lends its name to a family of viruses, which cause different forms of hepatitis.
The most common forms are Hepatitis A, B and C. Hepatitis B and C can cause chronic (long term) illness, whereas Hepatitis A usually causes acute (severe short term) illness. Hepatitis B and C are relatively common in the Australian population, while it is very uncommon for a large outbreak of Hepatitis A to occur in Australia (There was a large one in 1997 from oysters, and again in 2009 from semi-dried tomatoes). Infection with Hepatitis A generally gives lifelong immunity, and children are usually not injured as badly as adults. The numbers of Hepatitis A cases are steadily dropping, but the proportion of these which are the result of international travel is increasing as more tourists bring the virus back home with them.
Hepatitis A usually has about a 28 day incubation period, so it is very possible that sufferers will not realise they have been infected until their return. Symptoms then usually include fatigue, muscle pain, weakness, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. Patients will also become jaundiced.
Hepatitis A virus is spread by the faecal oral route, and can last for hours on unwashed skin and substantially longer on room temperature food. Unfortunately it is also stable up to 85 degrees Celsius in food, and is commonly caused by contamination after cooking.
There is a vaccine for Hepatitis A, which is very effective, and should be considered for anyone travelling to an area with endemic Hepatitis A. Your friendly staff at UFS can help you plan for a health holiday to avoid unnecessary risk.