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Should I be vaccinated against Hepatitis A if travelling to Egypt - 2000

Question: I'm going SCUBA diving in Egypt in 2 weeks time and people have mentioned that I should have a Hepatitis A vaccination. What is this illness and when should I get immunised?

Answer: Well, your friends are right. Egypt is one of the countries that vaccination against this disease is recommended. Hepatitis A is a condition where the liver becomes inflammed because of contraction of the virus that causes the illness. It is related to the other viruses that cause Hepatitis B and C, but is fortunately less severe a condition.

The virus is found in contaminated foods and water especially around resorts where sewage may infect local fish and drinking water. Once contracted the early symptoms are a fever, joint pains, and rather bizarrely, smokers suddenly finding their cigarettes distasteful. As the condition progresses the cardinal sign of jaundice appears. This is where the skin and whites of the eyes take on a lemon yellow hue, something your friends will notice before you, and there may be a delay in recognition if you have worked up a nice suntan.

Hepatitis A is what they call a self limiting condition, it'll get better by itself, but whilst you wait for this then anything that puts a strain on the liver has to be stopped, especially alcohol. Recovery can take from 3 months to a year to occur. Very rarely it is fatal and that is why doctors insist that you get a shot to prevent you from getting the disease.

Immunisation is simple. One injection will give you a years immunity. It takes 2 weeks for the vaccination to become effective so you had better get it soon. If you have left it too late for this shot then there is another available that works immediately but only gives you 3 months cover. It is called gammaglobulin and used to be the only vaccination available until the latest one year one.

The other good news for needle phobics is that if you have your Hep. A booster within one year of the first shot then the resulting immunity lasts for another 10 years. Do make a note of when you had the shots on your Vaccination Certificate as you may be asked to show this when travelling into some countries.

Again if you are travelling to Egypt, make sure your tetanus and polio immunisations are up to date (every 10 years) and sometimes a typhoid vaccination is also needed. Contact your GP or Practice Nurse for the latest information and they should be able to do the shots too.


Dr Jules Eden

Dr Jules Eden
MBBs BSc MRCGP




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Information published on this website is not a substitute for professional medical care or advice but should be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A Doctor should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

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