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Hepatitis A (HAV) is a virus that can cause liver disease. The virus is most commonly spread through close contact. It can also be spread by eating or drinking HAV-contaminated food or water. The hepatitis A (HepA) vaccine is recommended for all children at age 1.
HAV can easily be passed between family members. It can also be transmitted sexually and through contaminated food. Up to 20 percent of people with HAV will need hospitalization.
Vaccination is a safe, effective way to prevent HAV. The people advised to get the HepA vaccine include:
Vaccination requires two doses, at least six months apart. For children, the first dose should be given between 12 and 23 months of age. For others, vaccination can be done at any time.
People traveling to areas with HAV should start the vaccine series at least one month before leaving.
The HepA vaccine is very safe. However, there are a few groups of people who should not be vaccinated. These include people with:
Pregnant women should wait for vaccination, if possible. However, HepA vaccination is not known to put the fetus at risk.
If you are being vaccinated as an adult, you may want to be screened for previous exposure to HAV. Tests can look for antibodies against the virus in your blood. If you have such antibodies, you may not need the HepA vaccine. However, it’s not dangerous to get the vaccine if you are already immune.
Severe side effects from the HepA vaccine are extremely rare. However, more mild side effects are common. These include:
These problems usually go away in a few days.
Written by: Amy Boulanger
Medically reviewed on: Dec 05, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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