Prevention of Hepatitis A
Vaccination. Hepatitis A is preventable by vaccination. Two vaccines (Havrix, Vaqta) are available, both very safe and effective. They are given in 2 shots, 6 months apart. A combination Hep A - Hep B vaccine (Twinrix) that contains both Havrix and Engerix-B (a hepatitis B vaccine) is also available for people age 18 years and older. It is given as 3 shots over a 6-month period.
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend hepatitis A vaccination for:
- Children at age 1 year (12 - 23 months)
- Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is prevalent; they should receive the hepatitis A vaccine at least 2 weeks prior to departure.
- Men who have sex with other men
- Users of illegal drugs, especially those who inject drugs
- People with chronic liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C
Others who may benefit include:
- People who have chronic liver disease
- People who receive clotting factor concentrate to treat hemophilia or other clotting disorders
- Military personnel
- Employees of child day-care centers
- People who care for institutionalized patients
Prevention after Exposure to Hepatitis A. Unvaccinated people who have recently been exposed to hepatitis A may be able to prevent hepatitis A by receiving injection with immune globulin (IG) or the hepatitis A vaccine. These shots must be given within 2 weeks after exposure to be effective. In the past, immune globulin was the standard postexposure prophylaxis (preventive treatment after exposure) for hepatitis A. However, recent studies have indicated that the hepatitis A vaccine provides as good protection as immune globulin. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now recommends the vaccine for postexposure prophylaxis for healthy individuals between the ages of 1 - 40 years. Others should be given immune globulin if warranted.
Lifestyle Measures for Hepatitis A Prevention. Frequent handwashing after using the bathroom or changing diapers is important for preventing transmission of hepatitis A. International travelers to developing countries should use bottled or boiled water for brushing teeth and drinking, and avoid ice cubes. It is best to eat only well-cooked heated food and to peel raw fruits and vegetables.
Prevention of Hepatitis B
Review Date: 09/29/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, In-Depth Reports; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.