HEPATITIS A

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Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is one of several hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect your liver's ability to function.

Hepatitis A can be contracted from contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person or object that's infected.

The Hepatitis A vaccine was developed in 1995. Two types of Hepatitis A vaccines are available: the inactivated and the live, attenuated vaccine. Both vaccines prevent future infection but will not treat a current illness. The Hepatitis A vaccine is also available in combination with the Hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine is given in the muscle of the upper arm.

 

The Hepatitis A injection is recommended at age 1. A booster injection 6 – 12 months later can protect for up to 20 years. People who have not had Hepatitis A or were vaccinated, but travel to developing countries should consider a pre-departure Hepatitis A vaccination. It is essential to allow at least two weeks before departure for immunization. The vaccine contains no live virus and is safe even for people with reduced immune function.

Hepatitis A, sometimes called a traveler's disease because it is the most frequently occurring, vaccine-preventable infection in travelers. 

People who are at an increased risk for complications if they become infected with Hepatitis A:

  • People living with chronic liver disease, including:

  • chronic Hepatitis B

    • chronic Hepatitis C

    • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

    • alcoholic liver disease

      • All patients awaiting liver transplant or post-liver transplant

      • People age 40 and older (more likely to be hospitalized)

Hepatitis A symptoms typically don't appear until you've had the virus for a few weeks. Not everyone will exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Sudden nausea and vomiting

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)

  • Clay-colored bowel movements

  • Loss of appetite

  • Low-grade fever

  • Dark urine

  • Joint pain

  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)

  • Intense itching

These symptoms may be relatively mild and go away in a few weeks. Sometimes, however, Hepatitis A infection results in a severe illness that lasts several months.

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