What Is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver. It is caused by a virus. It is passed from person to person through close contact with someone who is infected. A person can also get it from objects, foods, or drinks that are contaminated.
The infection can cause harm to the liver. It may not always cause problems, but some people may have:
- Lack of hunger
- Nausea and vomiting
- Belly pain
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin
- Dark urine
- Light or chalky colored stools
The infection often goes away on its own in 2 months. People with severe problems may need a liver transplant. This is not common.
What Is the Hepatitis A Vaccine?
This vaccine is an inactivated form of the hepatitis A virus. It is given as a shot in the arm.
There is also a combined vaccine that protects against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
This vaccine is advised for all children aged 12 to 23 months. The second dose should be given at least 6 months after the first dose. The vaccine should also be given to children 2 through 18 years of age who were not vaccinated in the past.
Adults who were not vaccinated in the past can also get the vaccine. It is also advised for:
- People who travel to places where hepatitis A is common
- Men who have sex with men
- Drug users
- People who are at risk because of their job
- People who will have close contact with an adopted child from a place where hepatitis A is common
- Homeless people
- People with HIV
- People with chronic liver disease
- People who want to be immune to hepatitis A
Are There Any Risks From Getting the Hepatitis A Vaccine?
Mild problems may be:
- Soreness at the site of injection
- Lack of hunger
Rarely, a severe allergic reaction may cause:
- Skin rash
- Swelling of the face and throat
- Problems breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
People who should not get vaccinated are:
- Children under 1 year of age
- People who have already had hepatitis A
- People who have had a severe allergic reaction to the hepatitis A vaccine or its parts
- People who are very ill
What Else Can I Do To Prevent Hepatitis A?
- Wash your hands with soap and water, especially after using the restroom, changing a diaper, and before handling food.
- Heat foods to 185 °F (degrees Fahrenheit); 85 °C (degrees Celsius) for 1 minute.
- Disinfect surfaces.
- Do not come into contact with uncooked foods when traveling to places where hepatitis A is common
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
If a food-borne outbreak happens, the source will be identified and eliminated. In any hepatitis A outbreak, the public will get vaccinated to prevent the virus from spreading.
American Liver Foundation
Hepatitis Foundation International
Canadian Institute for Health Information
Canadian Liver Foundation
2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Accessed September 14, 2020.
Hepatitis A questions and answers for health professionals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HAV/HAVfaq.htm. Accessed September 14, 2020.
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hepatitis-a-virus-hav-infection. Accessed September 14, 2020.
Hepatitis A virus vaccine inactivated. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/drug-monograph/hepatitis-a-virus-vaccine-inactivated. Accessed September 14, 2020.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Accessed September 14, 2020.
Shin EC, Jeong SH. Natural History, Clinical Manifestations, and Pathogenesis of Hepatitis A. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2018 Sep 4;8(9).
Viral hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HAV/index.htm. Accessed September 14, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN Last Updated: 3/19/2021