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Hepatitis and Adults

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.

Which adults need 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

Hep BHepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) which can lead to serious health problems in the liver, including liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.

Transmission of the HBV occurs when an individual comes into contact with the blood, semen, or other body fluid of an infected person. Many people who are infected with the HBV do not have any symptoms, so it is important that high-risk individuals get screened and vaccinated according to CDC recommendations. While there is no specific treatment for individuals that are infected, a vaccine is available to protect individuals against HBV infection. Hepatitis B vaccine is available alone or in a combination with hepatitis A vaccine.

  • Hepatitis B is incurable. A safe, effective vaccine has been available since the 1980s. Vaccination can help protect individuals and contribute to the elimination of this highly infectious disease.
  • In the US, up to 2.2 million individuals have chronic HBV infection.
  • Hepatitis B is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.

Symptoms

Some people get sick within the first six months after getting infected. The symptoms of this “acute” hepatitis are loss of appetite, tiredness, stomachache, nausea, and vomiting. These people might also experience yellowing of the whites of the eyes (jaundice) or joint pain. For some people, acute infection leads to chronic infection. People with chronic HBV infection usually do not feel sick for many years, but will have symptoms if they develop the most serious complications from hepatitis B, like cirrhosis or liver cancer. A person infected with the virus can pass it on to others even if he or she does not feel sick or show symptoms.

There is no specific treatment for newly acquired HBV infection. Medicines are available to treat people with chronic hepatitis B. These medicines work for some people, but not for all.

Prevention

Safe, effective hepatitis B vaccines are available. The vaccination series is usually given as three doses over a six-month period. Hepatitis B vaccine is the first anti-cancer vaccine because it prevents liver cancer caused by chronic HBV infection.

Which adults need hepatitis B vaccine?

  • People whose sex partners have hepatitis B
  • Any sexually active adult who is not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship
  • Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease
  • Men who have sexual contact with other men
  • Those with close household contact with an infected person
  • Adults who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
  • Healthcare professionals
  • View complete list of adults who need hepatitis B vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information on hepatitis C.


Additional Resources