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