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    Hepatitis A and B Vaccines: What You Need to Know

    What are hepatitis A and B?

    They are viruses that cause inflammation of the liver and can lead to long-term and even life-threatening problems.

    Did You Know?

    Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free children’s preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests. Learn more.

    Health Insurance Center

    What are the symptoms?

    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
    • Use drugs
    • 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.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on November 19, 2015

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