Hepatitis A

What Is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus.  It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

Can Hepatitis A be prevented?

The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated.  Experts recommend the vaccine for all children, and people with certain risk factors and medical conditions.

The vaccine is also recommended for travelers to certain international countries, even if travel occurs for short times or on closed resorts.  The Hepatitis A vaccine is safe and effective and given as 2 shots, 6 months apart.  Both shots are needed for long-term protection.  Ask if your health plan will cover travel-related vaccines. 

You can get vaccinated at your doctor’s office, as well as travel clinics and other locations.  Lower cost vaccination may be available at certain pharmacies and at your local health department. 

Call the Ashtabula County Health Department at (440)576-3023, option 2, for hours and locations of vaccination clinics.

Who is at risk?  Although anyone can get Hepatitis A, some people are at greater risk, such as those who:

  • Travel to or live in countries where Hepatitis A in common
  • Have sexual contact with someone who has Hepatitis A
  • Are men who have sexual encounters with other men
  • Use recreational drugs, whether injected or not
  • Have clotting-factor disorders, such as hemophilia
  • Are household members or caregivers of a person infected with Hepatitis A

How is Hepatitis A spread?

  1. Person to person:
    • By an infected person who does not wash his/her hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touches objects or food.
    • By a caregiver who does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person.
    • By someone who engages in sexual activities with an infected person.
  2. Eating contaminated food or drink:
    • Contamination of food with the Hepatitis A virus can happen at any point:  growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking.  Contamination of food and water happens more often in countries where Hepatitis A is common.  Although uncommon, foodborne outbreaks have occurred in the United States from people eating contaminated fresh and frozen imported food products.

For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm

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