Combined hepatitis A and B vaccine

Hepatitis A and B are vaccine-preventable viral diseases that affect the liver. Both infections put the patient at risk of liver failure, which can be fatal. There are hepatitis A and B vaccines available to travellers.

What is liver failure?

Anyone infected by hepatitis A or hepatitis B viruses is at increased risk of liver failure. Liver failure is an emergency. If you think you or someone you are caring for has liver failure, get medical help immediately.

The symptoms of liver failure are:

  • sudden vomiting
  • nosebleeds or bleeding gums or a tendency to bruise easily
  • drowsiness, irritability and memory problems

How did I catch hepatitis?

Hepatitis A is spread via the faecal-oral route. It is contracted by ingesting tiny fragments of an infected person’s poo. People commonly pick up hep A through food or water or through sexual activity. Read more about food hygiene and safe water in our travel articles.

Hepatitis B is spread via saliva and bodily fluids. You can catch it from a lover; and it can also be contracted via poorly sanitised medical or cosmetic equipment, and through needlestick injuries. Also, children are at risk from contracting hep B through cuts and grazes.

What are some hepatitis symptoms?

Hepatitis B may be symptomless. The symptoms of hepatitis often do not develop until a month after infection. They are:

  • gastro-intestinal upset accompanied by a mild fever
  • vomiting and diarrhoea or constipation and abdominal pain
  • jaundice, a yellow discolouration of the skin and the eyes

If you have been travelling in Africa, China, India, South and Central America, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal) and Southeast Asia and you get these symptoms on your return, seek medical help and mention your travel history.

Can I get a hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine?

Hepatitis A and B are vaccine preventable. But it’s important to support vaccination with precautions to avoid exposure, too.

The combined hepatitis A and B vaccine is good value for some travellers. The vaccines are also available separately, and there is a combined hep A and typhoid shot.

The hepatitis B vaccine is a course of three injections over six months to provide long-term protection. Ask about an accelerated schedule if you are travelling at short notice.

The normal schedule of vaccination protects children born after 1 August 2017 from hepatitis B. Older children not vaccinated against hep B are at risk from exposure while travelling.

A single dose of the hep A vaccine protects for about four years, but a booster six months after the first dose can provide 25 years of protection.

Ideally, get your hepatitis A shot at least two to three weeks before leaving, however we can help last-minute travellers with a same-day appointment.

For information about other forms of hepatitis, see NHS Choices.