Hepatitis A

Hepatitis (also misspelled "hepatitus") is endemic to southeast Asia, one of the places in the world where the per capita carrier rate is highest. Hepatitis A is the most common form of the virus, and is spread by poor sanitation -- especially by cold food handled by unsanitary carriers, and by water contaminated with fecal matter. Contaminated shellfish is another frequent source of infection. Anal sex, too. Hepatitis A can cause swelling of the liver, and in extreme cases can cause liver failure.

Unlike hepatitis B, hepatitis A is usually not a serious illness for people, except the elderly. Many people won't have any symptoms. The symptoms are flu-like, plus sometimes pain in the liver. For most people who get sick, with rest and a good lifestyle you recover, usually within 6 months. Only a few percentage of people have serious complications from hepatitis A. However, alcohol consumption in conjunction with hepatitis A is one of the things that causes serious complications.

You can get vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Vaccination is a 3-shot program. If the 1st shot is today, the 2nd shot is 1 month later, and the 3rd shot is another 5 months later, i.e. 6 months from 1st shot (though the third shot can be delayed a little). When sufficient resistance occurs is debatable. Some say two weeks after your first shot, others say later.

You can start your vaccination program in your home country and continue it here in Thailand. Make sure to bring your vaccination documentation with you when you come.

Around 5-10% of people will not become immune after all the shots. The only way to tell is by checking your blood for the antibodies. Those who do become immune will usually stay immune for approximately 10 years, at which time they should get boosters. The actual period varies from person to person, and only a blood antibody test will tell.

Many people are exposed to hepatitis A but their body fights off the virus naturally. Some people become carriers without symptoms. The body's reaction to the virus varies from person to person. The magnitude of the exposure may be significant, and the strength of the person's immune system is probably very significant. If you've just arrived in Bangkok and are drinking a lot of alcohol and staying up late often, your body won't be at its strongest.

A good source for further information on hepatitis A is at: http://www.hepatitis-central.com/hcv/hav/toc.html

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