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The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccination is recommended for all children age 12 months or older, for travelers to certain countries, and for people at high risk for infection with the virus.
The hepatitis A vaccine is given as two shots, six months apart. The hepatitis A vaccine also comes in a combination form, containing both hepatitis A and B vaccine, that can be given to persons 18 years or older. This form is given as three shots, over a period of six months or as three shots over one month and a booster shot at 12 months.
Getting hepatitis A vaccine is much safer than getting the disease. But a vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems such as severe allergic reactions. Learn more about possible side effects of hepatitis A vaccine.
The first dose should be given at 12-23 months old. Children who are not vaccinated by two years old can be vaccinated at later visits.
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for healthy international travelers age 12 months or older; the first dose of Hepatitis A vaccine should be administered as soon as travel is considered. A shot called immune globulin (IG) can be considered in addition to hepatitis A vaccine for older adults, immunocompromised persons, and persons with chronic liver disease or other chronic medical conditions who are traveling within two weeks.
IG without hepatitis A vaccine can be given to travelers who are younger than 12 months old, allergic to a vaccine component, or who elect not to receive vaccine.
The hepatitis A vaccine series may be started whenever a person is at risk of infection:
Last reviewed: April 2015
Many people do not have symptoms of hepatitis A, especially young children. If you do have symptoms, they can include: yellow skin or eyes, tiredness, stomach ache, loss of appetite, or nausea.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person.
“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with hepatitis A usually improve without treatment.
Hepatitis A is usually spread when the Hepatitis A virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces (or stool) of an infected person. A person can get Hepatitis A through:
Although anyone can get hepatitis A, in the United States, certain groups of people are at higher risk, such as those who:
Microscopic view of hepatitis A.