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.
See also: Preventing hepatitis B or C
The following tips can help reduce your risk of spreading or catching the virus:
The virus may spread more rapidly through day care centers and other places where people are in close contact. Thorough hand washing before and after each diaper change, before serving food, and after using the restroom may help prevent such outbreaks.
If you have recently been 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.
Other 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 Africa, Asia (except Japan), the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean.
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).
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.
Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recommended immunization schedules for children, adolescents, and adults -- United States, 2010 (accessed November 9, 2010).
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, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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