Many people with hepatitis don't have symptoms. But if you do, you may have a fever, fatigue, nausea, and a loss of appetite. Children may have severe stomach pains and diarrhea.
How do you get these viruses?
Hepatitis A is extremely contagious. You can get it by having close contact with someone who has it, or through contaminated food or water.
You can get hepatitis B through contact with bodily fluids, like blood and semen, from someone who has it, or by sharing their personal items like razors or toothbrushes. You can also get it from sharing dirty needles used for injecting illegal drugs, and from body piercings and tattoos given with needles that aren't sterilized. Women with hepatitis B can also pass it to their babies during birth. You can’t get the disease from casual contact.
When adults get hepatitis B, it's usually a short-term infection. But about 90% of babies born with it will have a long-term infection.
Do I need the hepatitis A or B vaccines?
You should get the hep A vaccine if you:
Are traveling to a country with a high rate of the disease
Have a blood clotting disorder, like hemophilia
Are a man who has sex with other men
You should get the hepatitis B vaccine if you:
Have more than one sex partner
Have sexual contact or household contact with someone with hepatitis B
Are traveling to an area with a high rate of the disease
Share needles or other drug equipment
Work in health care and are at risk for exposure to blood or other bodily fluids on the job
Have HIV, or chronic liver or kidney disease
You can get the vaccines separately, but there's also a combination vaccine that will protect you against both types of hepatitis. It's given in three or four doses over several months.
Do my children need the vaccines?
Yes. All babies should be vaccinated for hepatitis B at birth, and for hepatitis A at age 1.
What are the side effects of the vaccines?
Most people don't have any. You may feel sore and notice some redness at the injection site.
Who shouldn't get the vaccine?
The hepatitis A vaccine should not be given to children under 1 year old. Don't get either the A or B vaccine if you've had a severe allergic reaction after a dose of the vaccine, or if you're allergic to any of their ingredients. Talk to your doctor if you have severe allergies.
CDC: "FDA Approval for a Combined Hepatitis A and B Vaccine," “Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public,” “Hepatitis B Questions and Answers for the Public,” “Hepatitis A Vaccine Information Statement,” “Viral Hepatitis-Hepatitis A Information,” “Viral Hepatitis-Hepatitis B Information,” “Hepatitis A and the Vaccine to Prevent It: Fact Sheet for Parents,” “Hepatitis B and the Vaccine to Prevent It: Fact Sheet for Parents.”
The World Health Organization: “Hepatitis A,” “Hepatitis B.”