Hepatitis A is inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. You can take several steps to prevent catching or spreading the virus.
To reduce your risk of spreading or catching the hepatitis A virus:
The virus may spread quickly through day care centers and other places where people are in close contact. To prevent outbreaks, wash hands well before and after each diaper change, before serving food, and after using the restroom.
If you were recently exposed to hepatitis A and have not had hepatitis A before, or have not received the hepatitis A vaccine series, ask your doctor or nurse about receiving a hepatitis A immune globulin shot.
Common reasons why you may need to receive this shot include:
You will likely get the hepatitis A vaccine at the same time you receive the immune globulin shot.
Vaccines are available to protect against hepatitis A infection. Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all children older than age 1.
The vaccine begins to protect 4 weeks after you receive the first dose. A 6- to 12-month booster is required for long-term protection.
People who are at higher risk for hepatitis A and should receive the vaccine include:
Travelers should take the following precautions:
People who work or travel in areas where hepatitis A is common should be vaccinated. These areas include:
If you are traveling to these areas in fewer than 4 weeks after your first shot, you may not be fully protected by the vaccine. You can also get a preventive dose of immunoglobulin (IG).
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0 through 18 years and adults aged 19 years and older -- United States, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). MMWR. January 28, 2013.
Victor JC, Monto AS, Surdina TY, Suleimenova SZ, Vaughan G, Nainan OV, Favorov MO, Margolis HS, Bell BP. Hepatitis A vaccine versus immune globulin for postexposure prophylaxis. N Engl J Med. 2007; 357:1685-1694.
Wedemeyer H, Pawlotsky JM. Acute viral hepatitis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011.
Updated by: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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