About Hepatitis

From the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis and other foodborne illness outbreaks.

Chapter 9

How to Prevent Hepatitis A Infection

Hepatitis A vaccines are widely available.

Hepatitis A is totally and completely preventable. [12] Although outbreaks continue to occur in the United States, no one should ever get infected if preventive measures are taken. [7, 12] For example, food handlers must always wash their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and certainly before preparing food. [12, 24] Food handlers should always wear gloves when handling or preparing ready-to-eat foods, although gloves are not a substitute for good hand washing. Ill food-handlers should be excluded from work. [14, 24]

After exposure, immune globulin (IG) is 80% to 90% effective in preventing clinical hepatitis A when administered within 2 weeks of last exposure. [9] Although efficacy is greatest when IG is administered early in the incubation period, when administered later, IG is still likely to make the symptoms less severe. [9, 11] Given the lack of appropriately designed studies comparing the postexposure efficacy of vaccine with that of IG, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends IG exclusively for post-exposure. [9] Hepatitis A vaccine, if recommended for other reasons, could be given at the same time. [9, 13]

In 2006, the ACIP recommended routine hepatitis A vaccination for all children ages 12-23 months, that hepatitis A vaccination be integrated into the routine childhood vaccination schedule, and that children not vaccinated by two years of age be vaccinated subsequently. [9, 13] The vaccine is recommended for the following persons:

  • Travelers to areas with increased rates of hepatitis A

Men who have sex with men Injecting and non-injecting drug users Persons with clotting factor disorders (e.g. hemophilia) Persons with chronic liver disease Persons with occupational risk of infection (e.g. those who work with hepatitis A-infected primates or with hepatitis A virus in a laboratory setting) Children living in regions of the U.S. with increased rates of hepatitis A Household members and other close personal contacts (such as regular babysitters) of adopted children newly arriving from countries with high or intermediate rates of hepatitis A. [9]

The vaccine may also help protect household contacts of those persons infected with hepatitis A. [9, 20] Although generally not a legal requirement at this time, vaccination of food handlers would be expected to substantially diminish the incidence of hepatitis A outbreaks. [12] Persons traveling to a high-risk area less than four weeks after receiving the initial dose of hepatitis A vaccine, or travelers who choose not to be vaccinated against hepatitis A should receive a single dose of Immune Globulin, which provides protection against hepatitis A infection for up to three months. [9, 11, 18]

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Real Life Impacts of Hepatitis A Infection

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Outbreaks of Hepatitis A

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