Consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis A, if you haven’t already been. The vaccine is safe and effective and is especially important if you are in one of the high risk groups for this viral liver infection:
- You travel to developing countries where the virus is common
- You are a man who has sex with men
- You are being treated for hemophilia or certain other bleeding disorders
- You use illegal drugs (with or without needles)
- You are homeless
Additionally, if you have chronic liver disease (including hepatitis B or C), you should get the vaccine because you are at higher risk of complications if you become infected. All children should also be vaccinated beginning at age one.
Hepatitis A infections decreased about 95 percent between 1996 and 2011 in the U.S., thanks to vaccination. But according to a recent CDC report, they increased nearly 300 percent between 2016 and 2018 (with about 15,000 infections reported), compared with 2013–2015. The virus is typically transmitted through food or water that has been contaminated by fecal matter from an infected person. It may cause mild to moderate symptoms lasting several weeks—or no symptoms at all. Most people completely recover without treatment, but in rare cases, liver failure or death can occur.
Hepatitis A does not lead to chronic liver disease, and having it confers lifelong immunity. For more information about the vaccine, go to cdc.gov.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Which Vaccines Are Essential?