Disease & Vaccine Information

Hepatitis A Disease & Vaccine Information

Find the Information You Need to Make an Informed Vaccine Decision
Updated November 12, 2022


hepatitis a

Hepatitis A: The Disease

Hepatitis A is viral disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Humans are the only natural host of this virus.  The hepatitis A virus is very stable and can remain present for several months in most environments. The virus, however, can be killed by high temperatures (temperatures greater than 85C/185F), or by solutions such as chlorine, or formalin.    Hepatitis A is contracted orally and typically acquired by coming into contact with human fecal waste, generally through the consumption of contaminated food and/or water.  Source of contamination may include raw shellfish, fruits and vegetables and ice. 

An infected individual can spread hepatitis A to others for one to two weeks prior to becoming symptomatic.    It generally takes an average of four weeks (range of two to seven weeks) following exposure to hepatitis A for symptoms to develop. Symptoms often occur suddenly and include fatigue, abdominal and/or joint pain, loss of appetite, fever, nausea, jaundice, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, and diarrhea. Young children are often asymptomatic and show no clinical signs of infection.  Most infected individuals recover fully within 2 months, however, approximately 10 to 15 percent of infected individuals can have lingering symptoms for up to 6 months.  Learn more about Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A Vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has approved three different hepatitis A containing shots. There are different rules for use of these vaccines by different aged groups. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices currently recommends that all children receive the first dose of hepatitis A vaccine between 12 and 23 months of age and the second dose is recommended 6 months or longer following the first dose of the vaccine. Additionally, hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for person considered at high risk for developing hepatitis A related to travel, employment, pre-existing health issues, lifestyle and in the event of an outbreak situation.  Learn more about Hepatitis A vaccines

Hepatitis A Quick Facts

Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver that is contracted through contact with, or by swallowing human fecal waste, generally through eating or drinking contaminated food and/or water.  The virus is typically spread when people eat or drink something that has been contaminated with the virus; 
  • Symptoms of hepatitis A generally appear between two and seven weeks following exposure to the virus and infected individuals can spread the virus to others for up to two weeks before showing symptoms.  Symptoms often occur suddenly and may include fatigue, abdominal and/or joint pain, loss of appetite, fever, nausea, jaundice, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, and diarrhea. Younger children often show no clinical symptoms of infection. Only lab testing can confirm a diagnosis of hepatitis A;  Continue reading quick facts

Hepatitis A Vaccine

  • There are three hepatitis A containing vaccines available for use in the United States.  VAQTA,  an inactivated hepatitis A virus vaccine, manufactured by Merck; HAVRIX,  an inactivated hepatitis A virus vaccine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline; and TWINRIX,  a combination vaccine containing both inactivated hepatitis A virus vaccine (HAVRIX) and recombinant hepatitis B vaccine (ENGERIX-B), manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. The CDC recommends that children receive two doses of hepatitis A vaccine with the first dose administered between the ages of 12 and 23 months, and the second dose given 6 months later; 
  • Using the MedAlerts search engine, as of October 31, 2022, there have been more than 47,855 reports of hepatitis A vaccine reactions, with over 25 percent (12,248) of reaction occuring in children under 3 years of age. Reports made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) note hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following hepatitis A vaccinations, including 166 related deaths, 3,629 hospitalizations, and 1,012 related disabilities;
  • On December 1, 2004, hepatitis A vaccine was added to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program's (VICP) Vaccine Injury Table, as published in the Federal Register.  As of November 1, 2022, there had been 193 claims filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for injuries and deaths following hepatitis A vaccination, including 7 deaths and 186 serious injuries. Continue reading quick facts

Learn More About Hepatitis A and Hepatitis A Vaccine

Click here to view, download, or print all sections below as one document or webpage.

NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Hepatitis A and the Hepatitis A vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents below, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

 


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