About Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person.

Who is at Risk for Hepatitis A?

  • People working in or traveling to countries that have high rates of hepatitis A (see https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/hepatitis-a for more information)
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Users of injection and non-injection recreational drugs
  • People exposed to hepatitis A in their job duties
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People with clotting-factor disorders
  • People in direct contact with others who either have hepatitis A or have been in areas where hepatitis A is prevalent

How Common is Hepatitis A in the United States?

In the United States, there were an estimated 25,000 new hepatitis A virus infections in 2007. (However, the official number of reported hepatitis A cases is much lower since many people who are infected never have symptoms and are never reported to public health officials.)

Is Hepatitis A Decreasing in the United States?

Yes. Rates of hepatitis A in the United States are the lowest they have been in 40 years. The hepatitis A vaccine was introduced in 1995 and health professionals now routinely vaccinate all children, travelers to certain countries, and persons at risk for the disease. Many experts believe hepatitis A vaccination has dramatically affected rates of the disease in the United States.

Possible Symptoms of Hepatitis A

  • Short, mild, flu-like illness
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and whites of eyes, darker yellow urine and pale feces)
  • Itchy skin
  • Abdominal pain

If experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately for emergency care.

What Vaccines are Available to Prevent Hepatitis A?

There are currently two vaccines available to prevent hepatitis A: Havrix® and Vaqta®. Both vaccines are given in a 2-dose series. Another vaccine, Twinrix®, combines hepatitis A and B vaccines and is available in a 3-dose series.

Anyone who is at risk for hepatitis A should be vaccinated.

What are the Possible Side Effects of Hepatitis A Vaccine?

With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible.

Most people who get hepatitis A vaccine do not have any problems with it.

Minor problems following hepatitis A vaccination include:

  • Soreness or redness where the shot was given
  • Low-grade fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness

If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1 or 2 days.

Your doctor can tell you more about these reactions.

Other problems that could happen after receiving this vaccine:

  • People sometimes faint after a medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
  • Some people get shoulder pain that can be more severe and longer lasting than the more routine soreness that can follow injections. This happens very rarely.
  • Any medication can cause a severe allergic reaction. Such reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at about 1 in a million doses, and would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.

The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit the vaccine safety site.

This information is based on the hepatitis A VIS.

Reference: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm

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