Acute hepatitis A in international travellers: a GeoSentinel analysis, 2008-2020

Oluwafemi Balogun, Ashley Brown, Kristina M. Angelo, Natasha S. Hochberg, Elizabeth D. Barnett, Laura Ambra Nicolini, Hilmir Asgeirsson, Martin P. Grobusch, Karin Leder, Fernando Salvador, Lin Chen, Silvia Odolini, Marta Díaz-Menéndez, Federico Gobbi, Bradley A. Connor, Michael Libman, Davidson H. Hamer

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BACKGROUND: Non-immune international travellers are at risk of acquiring hepatitis A. Although hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for unvaccinated travellers to high or intermediate hepatitis A virus endemicity, compliance with this recommendation is not universal.The main objective was to describe the demographic and travel characteristics of international travellers infected with hepatitis A during travel. METHODS: Available data on travellers with confirmed (positive molecular test) or probable (symptomatic individuals with a single positive IgM test) hepatitis A diagnosed during and after travel from January 2008 to December 2020 were obtained from the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network database. We analysed demographic and travel characteristics of infected travellers. RESULTS: Among 254 travellers with hepatitis A (185 confirmed and 69 probable), the median age was 28 years (interquartile range: 19-40), 150 (59%) were male, and among 54 travellers with information available, 53 (98%) were unvaccinated. The most common reasons for travel included tourism (n = 120; 47%) and visiting friends or relatives (VFR; n = 72; 28%). About two-thirds of VFR travellers with hepatitis A (n = 50; 69%) were younger than 20 years old. Hepatitis A was acquired most frequently in South-Central Asia (n = 63; 25%) and sub-Saharan Africa (n = 61; 24%), but 16 travellers (6%) acquired hepatitis A in regions with low endemicity including Western Europe (n = 7; 3%), the Caribbean (n = 6; 2%) and North America (n = 3; 1%). Median duration from illness onset to GeoSentinel site presentation was ~7 days (interquartile range : 4-14 days). Among 88 travellers with information available, 59% were hospitalized. CONCLUSIONS: Despite availability of highly effective vaccines, travellers still acquire hepatitis A, even when traveling to low-endemicity destinations. Providing pre-departure hepatitis A vaccine to susceptible travellers is crucial to reducing travel-associated hepatitis A and should be offered to all travellers as part of the pre-travel consultation, regardless of destination.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbertaac013
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Travel Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • COVID-19
  • endemicity
  • epidemiology
  • hepatitis A vaccine
  • immunization

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