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Hepatitis A Prevention

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that is transmitted via the “feco-oral route.” This means the infection is acquired when a person consumes water or food that has been contaminated with feces containing hepatitis A. It is mainly transmitted in areas where poor hygiene, inadequate sanitation and contaminated water are a problem.

Examples of steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of hepatitis A are described below:

Improvement of hygiene

People should avoid exposure to the virus by ensuring they wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before preparing meals. It is essential to wash the hands after changing diapers or cleaning up stool from an infected child.

Vaccination

The hepatitis A vaccination was first introduced in 1992 to treat high risk groups. Vaccination programmes were then adopted by various countries worldwide including Bahrain, Israel, China, Australia, Spain, Italy and the U.S. There have been dramatic decreases in the incidence of infection in areas where vaccination programmes have been used. There are three types of vaccine that can be used to prevent hepatitis A and these include:

  • the monovalent vaccine, which provides protection against hepatitis A
  • the combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine 
  • the combined hepatitis A and typhoid fever vaccine 

The vaccination is recommended to treat the following high risk groups:

  • Children living in regions with a high incidence of hepatitis A
  • People travelling to regions where hepatitis A is widespread and the levels of sanitation and hygiene are poor
  • People with hemophilia who require frequent blood transfusions
  • People with long-term liver disease
  • Drug abusers who share needles
  • People who work with and near sewage
  • People living in close quarters such as homeless shelters where hygiene and sanitation tends to be poor
  • People working with animals that may carry the infection

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 12, 2014

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