May 14, 2024

Graphic showing a liver: Love you liver!

Dr. Emmanuel Thomas is Board Chair of the American Liver FoundationMay is Hepatitis Awareness Month, an annual observance highlighting the importance of preventing and treating viral hepatitis. Special thanks to Emmanuel Thomas MD, PhD, Chair of the National Board of Directors, American Liver Foundation (ALF), for this guest blog post.

Take the NFID poll to test your knowledge about hepatitis vaccination to help protect against liver disease and read on to learn more …

Liver disease, which affects millions of people in the US, can be a serious condition. An individual who has liver disease can have worse health outcomes if they are exposed to a new ‘hit’ to their liver that can subsequently damage their liver even more. This is why, in patients who already have some form of liver disease, vaccination for both hepatitis A and B is recommended.

If you have liver disease, getting vaccinated can protect against serious disease and prevent hospitalization and deathHepatitis A and B vaccines are recommended for many patient populations. Both vaccines are recommended for all children and many adults, including those at increased risk for acquiring these diseases. For example, hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for individuals traveling to countries where the virus is frequently encountered (including travel to Mexico), and universal hepatitis B vaccination is recommended in many settings, including for all infants, adults age 19-59 years, as well as healthcare workers given their possible exposure to blood.

Despite the widespread availability of safe and effective vaccines in the US for both of these viral illnesses, many individuals remain unprotected. That is a problem because hepatitis A can be serious, particularly for older children and adults. According to ALF, adults older than age 50 years and those with chronic liver disease are at increased risk of acute liver failure due to hepatitis A, a life-threatening event. And following infection with hepatitis B, some individuals carry the virus their whole lives as a chronic infection, which can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.

Importantly, both vaccines are recommended for patients with pre-existing liver disease. For example, in patients who are chronically infected with hepatitis C, for which there is currently no vaccine, acquiring hepatitis A or B can be very serious. Therefore, it is important for hepatitis C infected patients to be vaccinated for both hepatitis A and B. This is true for patients with many other types of liver disease as well.

Vaccines to protect against hepatitis A and B have been around for many years. There are combined vaccines available that can help protect against both hepatitis A and B at the same time, making it easy and convenient. Getting vaccinated and arming yourself with information is especially important if you already have a form of liver disease.

The American Liver Foundation supports routine vaccination for hepatitis A and B. This is especially important for patients with existing liver disease.

Additional Resources

Share these resources from ALF and NFID to help raise awareness among the public and healthcare professionals about viral hepatis and vaccines to help protect against hepatitis A and B:


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