Vaccinate Your Baby

Hepatitis A

Click on the photo above to open the Hepatitis A page from the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook!

The Disease

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A virus is found in the feces of a person who has the virus. It spreads when a person puts something in his or her mouth that has the hepatitis A virus on it. Even if the item looks clean, it can still have virus on it and it could spread to others.  The amount can be so tiny that it cannot be seen without a microscope. Hepatitis A disease can spread when an infected person doesn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom and then touches food, or through a caregiver who does not properly wash his/her hands after changing the diaper of an infected baby.

Although uncommon in the U.S., the virus can also get into food or water. If this happens, the hepatitis A virus can quickly spread to anyone who eats or drinks the affected food or water.

Not everyone with the disease develops symptoms, but they may include yellow skin or eyes, fever, weakness, tiredness, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and dark urine. Signs and symptoms are more apparent in adolescents and adults than in young children. An infected child may not necessarily develop the typical symptoms.

The Statistics

Hepatitis A still occurs in the United States, although not as frequently as it once did. Over the last 20 years, there has been more than a 90% decrease in hepatitis A cases. Now there are approximately 20,000 new cases of hepatitis A each year.

The Vaccine

The HepA vaccine protects against hepatitis A infection. For the best protection children need two doses of the vaccine. The first dose should be given to children between 12 and 23 months of age. The second dose should be given 6 to18 months after the first dose.

Adults with specific risk factors for hepatitis A or adults who just want to be protected from this disease should receive the vaccine. Two doses of the vaccine are needed, 6 to 18 months apart.

Additional Resources


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