The hepatitis A virus (HAV), which causes inflammation of the liver, is excreted in the stool of sick people. Infection usually occurs through contaminated food (e.g., shellfish from sewage-contaminated coastal waters) or contaminated drinking water. Fecal-oral transmission can also occur through close contact with already infected persons (smear infection!).

Excretion in the stool is particularly important because the stool of infected persons already contains masses of hepatitis A viruses one to two weeks before the onset of the disease (jaundice). In adults, the infection usually leads initially to nonspecific symptoms such as general faintness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and finally yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes (especially clearly visible on the conjunctiva), light-colored stools, and dark urine.

The course of the disease is without complications in the majority of cases. In some cases, however, complaints persist for several months. Severe courses are seen in pre-hospitalized individuals (e.g., patients with chronic hepatitis B and C). In children, the infection often runs its course without significant signs of illness. After World War II, 80-90% of children and adolescents were infected.
Currently, the infection rate in the Federal Republic of Germany – in contrast to the situation in developing countries – is low at about 5%. As more and more adolescents and adults lack immunity to HAV, disease can increasingly be observed in these age groups. Hepatitis A has increasingly become a travel disease.

A threat is already present for travel around the Mediterranean and other popular destinations in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Vaccination: Inactivated hepatitis A virus, also available in combination with hepatitis B or typhoid.

Who should get vaccinated?

  • Individuals who are at increased risk due to their occupational activities (e.g., medical facilities*, laboratories, day care centers, children’s homes; sewer and sewage treatment plant workers, etc.),
  • Contact persons to persons suffering from hepatitis A – here a “bolting vaccination” is possible,
  • Individuals who are expected to have severe disease progression due to existing liver disease,
  • Individuals traveling to regions with higher incidence of disease.
  • Gay active men
  • Persons with hemophilia requiring substitution (“hemophilia”)
  • Persons in psychiatric institutions or comparable care facilities for the cerebrally damaged or behaviorally disturbed.

*Staff here means medical and other professional and nursing staff as well as kitchen and cleaning staff

Time for vaccination:

Vaccination is possible in children as young as one year. If vaccinated for the first time with a vaccination before the onset of the risk of infection, the vaccination protects immediately. A second dose of vaccine at least six months apart is required for long-lasting protection.

Common vaccine reactions:

Very good tolerability in all age groups.