Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B belong to a family of viruses that affect the liver. The Hepatitis A virus is highly contagious and can easily be spread by close personal contact. It is usually acquired when the feces of an infected person – even in microscopic amounts – contaminates food, water or objects and is ingested by another household member or a sex partner. On rare occasions, large outbreaks of Hepatitis A have been caused by contaminated food.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A include flu-like illness, jaundice, severe stomach pain and diarrhea. Most children who get the disease never display symptoms, but they can still pass the virus on to others. Older children and adults are more likely to have symptoms. Although the disease can be fatal, nearly everyone who gets Hepatitis A recovers completely within a few months and afterward has lifelong immunity to the virus.
Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Hepatitis A rates in the United States have declined by 95% since the Hep A vaccine first became available in 1995.
Facts about Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a virus spread by direct contact with blood, semen or other bodily fluids from an infected person. A mother can also pass the disease to her baby at birth. Hepatitis B cannot be spread through casual contact or contaminated food or water. The disease may begin as an acute infection with symptoms that include abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, fatigue and jaundice. It takes an average of six months to recover from a Hepatitis B infection, after which an individual is immune from future infection.
However, for some people, the virus remains in the body and becomes a chronic disease that causes lifelong liver problems. It can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Infants who acquire Hepatitis B are highly likely to develop chronic disease. This is why immunization with the Hep B vaccine is so important.
Hep A & Hep B Vaccine Recommendations
Hep A vaccine is recommended for all children at 12-23 months of age. Two doses of the vaccine given six months apart are needed for lasting protection. All children should receive their first dose of Hep B vaccine at birth and complete the vaccine series by age 6-18 months. Older children and adolescents who did not previously receive the Hep A and Hep B vaccine should also be vaccinated.
RediClinic administers all recommended vaccines to individuals 18 months and older at our walk-in clinics in San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Philadelphia, Seattle and Baltimore. We also offer back-to-school physicals administered by board-certified clinicians. Walk in today with no appointment necessary.