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U.S. Brand Names
What Is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that strikes the liver. The virus causes the liver to become inflamed. Liver function is reduced. Waste that is normally excreted by the liver builds up in the blood. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) usually results.
Hepatitis A is passed from person to person through contact with feces. You can get the virus from an infected child by changing a diaper or by having sexual contact with an infected person. Contaminated food and water can also spread the virus.
The virus is very common in developing countries. It also occurs in the US.
- Abdominal pain or soreness
- Lack of appetite
- Headache, chills
If you have been exposed to the virus and have not been vaccinated, a shot of the vaccine or immune globulin (IG) can prevent you from getting sick and from spreading the virus. Either shot should be given as soon as possible.
If you do get sick, lifestyle changes can reduce symptoms. If you suffer from fatigue, get plenty of rest. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet , and avoid alcohol.
At times, people with hepatitis A need to be hospitalized. Rarely, the infection can be fatal if the liver is damaged.
Canadian Brand Names
Avaxim®; Avaxim®-Pediatric; HAVRIX®; VAQTA®
What Is the Hepatitis A Vaccine?
The vaccine contains a killed or inactivated form of the hepatitis A virus. It is given as an injection in the arm.
A combined vaccine that protects against both hepatitis A and B is also available.
Mexican Brand Names
Havrix 1440; Havrix Junior; Vaqta
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
The vaccine is recommended for all children aged 12 months. The two doses of the series are given 6 months apart. Children who have not been vaccinated can receive the shot at their next doctor's visit.
The following individuals should also get vaccinated:
- Children aged 12 months or older in high-risk areas (The CDC's Traveler's Health website shows which areas have a high prevalence of hepatitis A.)
- People traveling to areas where hepatitis A is prevalent
- People who engage in anal sex
- Drug users
- People with chronic liver disease
- People with blood-clotting disorders, like hemophilia
- Children who live in areas where hepatitis A is prevalent
- People who will have close contact with an adopted child from a medium- or high-risk area
In general, people who are traveling should get the first dose 2-4 weeks before leaving the US. Anytime before traveling is also okay.
Vaccine, Inactivated (Viral)
What Are the Risks Associated With the Hepatitis A Vaccine?
There is a risk of severe allergic reaction, with symptoms such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin rash
- Rapid heartbeat
Less common moderate side effects include:
- Soreness at the site of injection
- Loss of appetite
Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) are developed by the staff of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each VIS provides information to properly inform the adult vaccinee or, in the case of a minor, the child's parent or legal representative about the risks and benefits of each vaccine. Before a healthcare provider vaccinates a child or an adult with a dose of DTaP, Td, MMR, varicella, polio, Hib, hepatitis B, or pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, the provider is required by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act to provide a copy of the VIS. VISs are available for other vaccines and may be used to educate patients. Foreign language versions are also available.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
The following individuals should not get vaccinated:
- Children under one year of age
- Anyone who has already had hepatitis A
- Anyone who has previously had a severe allergic reaction to the hepatitis A vaccine
- Anyone who has previously had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the hepatitis A vaccine (including alum or 2-phenoxyethanol or neomycin )
- Anyone who is ill (If you are sick, wait until you have recovered.)
- Pregnant women
Created: 2005-04-07 16:47:03.0
Modified: 2010-03-09 08:31:45.0
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What Other Ways Can Hepatitis A Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
- Wash your hands with soap and water, especially after using the restroom or changing a diaper.
- IG given before and after exposure is another way of preventing and treating the virus.
- Twinrix is another vaccine that protects against both hepatitis A and B.
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
If a food-borne outbreak occurrs, the source of the contaminated food will be identified and eliminated. In any hepatitis A outbreak, the affected community will get vaccinated to prevent the virus from spreading.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
US National Library of Medicine
The American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
. Accessed February 6, 2007.
Hepatitis A: frequently asked questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
. Accessed February 1, 2008.
Hepatitis A: questions and answers. Immunization Action Coalition website. Available at:
. Updated May 2008. Accessed January 21, 2009.
National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
. Accessed February 6, 2007.
1/31/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2008;57;Q1-Q4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at:
. Updated January 10, 2008. Accessed January 28, 2008.
9/25/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Updated recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for use of hepatitis A vaccine in close contacts of newly arriving international adoptees.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009;58:1006.