Facts about Hepatitis A for Adults

What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The infection is spread by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.  It can also be spread through close person-to-person contact such as household contact with an infected person.  There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A infection.

Symptoms
The effects of HAV infection differ from person to person. Symptoms may include fever, malaise, fatigue, appetite loss, nausea, abdominal pain or discomfort, diarrhea, dark urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Some people do not have any symptoms, but they can still pass the infection on to others.
The average time between exposure to the virus and the development of hepatitis symptoms is about 30 days. Symptoms commonly last for less than two months, but in approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of people who get the disease the symptoms might return and continue on and off for up to six months.

Prevention
Hepatitis A vaccine can prevent HAV infection. Two doses are needed six to 12 or six to 18 months apart, depending on which vaccine you get, to ensure long-term protection. A combination hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine is also available, but requires three or more doses.

Who should get hepatitis A vaccine?

  • Adults traveling to countries outside the US, except for Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Household members and other close personal contacts of adopted children newly arriving from countries with moderate or 
    high rates of hepatitis A.
  • People with chronic liver disease. 
  • People who have blood clotting-factor disorders, such as hemophilia. 
  • Men who have sex with men. 
  • Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs.
  • People working with HAV-infected primates or HAV in a research laboratory

Vaccine safety
Hepatitis A vaccine is very safe and effective. You cannot get hepatitis A from the vaccine. Side effects, when they occur, are minimal and may include soreness at the injection site or a headache. As with any medicine, there are very small risks that serious problems could occur after getting the vaccine. However, the potential risks associated with hepatitis A disease are much greater than the potential risks associated with the hepatitis A vaccine. People who have had a severe allergic reaction to hepatitis A vaccine or to any of its components should not receive hepatitis A vaccine.

Disease and vaccine facts
  • FACT: Hepatitis A can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. 
  • FACT: Hepatitis A is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases Americans get during travel.
  • FACT:  You can get hepatitis A by consuming sewage-contaminated water or ice; raw shellfish from sewage-contaminated water; and fruits, vegetables, or other foods eaten uncooked. 
  • FACT: You can get hepatitis A through close personal contact, such as household or sexual contact with an infected person.
  • FACT: Before hepatitis A vaccine became available in the US, about 270,000 Americans were infected with hepatitis A 
    virus each year.
  • FACT: Adults who get hepatitis A lose an average of one month of work.
  • FACT: About 100 people die from hepatitis A in the US each year.
  • FACT: Hepatitis A infection is found throughout the world, but is especially common in developing countries.
  • FACT: Hepatitis A is more common than cholera and typhoid among international travelersFACT: 
  • Mumps can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine.

January 2012

For more information, speak with your healthcare professional or visit www.Adultvaccination.org.