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Hepatitis A is a serious disease that used to be more common in the United States. In the 1980s, the United States used to see as many as 30,000 cases a year. Thanks to the vaccine, the number of hepatitis A cases in the United States has dropped by 95%.
There are 2 vaccines that protect against hepatitis A:
Because of the vaccine, rates of hepatitis A in the United States are the lowest they’ve been in 40 years. But hepatitis A is still common in other countries, so it’s possible for people to get the disease when they travel.
Most people who get hepatitis A only get a mild form of the disease. But in some cases, hepatitis A can lead to serious liver problems — and even death.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus. Some people with hepatitis A don’t have any symptoms. Other people do develop symptoms, including:
Symptoms usually last less than 2 months — but they can last as long as 6 months.
Hepatitis A usually spreads when someone eats or drinks something that has come in contact with the poop of someone with the hepatitis A virus. For example, hepatitis A can spread when someone who has it doesn’t wash their hands properly after using the bathroom and then touches food.
Hepatitis A can also spread from person to person through sexual contact. Learn more about hepatitis A.
All children need to get the hepatitis A vaccine — and some adults may need it, too.
All children need to get the hepatitis A vaccine as part of their routine vaccine schedule.
Children need 2 doses of the vaccine at the following ages:
Adults who are at risk for hepatitis A can also get vaccinated. The shot is given in 2 doses — adults get each dose 6 to 18 months apart.
You may be at risk for hepatitis A if you:
If you’re age 18 and older and at risk for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B, you may be able to get a combination vaccine that protects against both diseases. You may be at risk for both diseases if you:
Talk with your doctor about how to protect your family from hepatitis A.
Some people should not get the hepatitis A vaccine — or may need to wait to get it. Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:
Side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. They may include:
Serious side effects from the hepatitis A vaccine are very rare. Like any medicine, there's a very small chance that the hepatitis A vaccine could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting the hepatitis A vaccine is much safer than getting hepatitis A. Learn more about vaccine side effects.
Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) have detailed information about recommended vaccines.
Last reviewed: January 2018