The hepatitis A vaccine can prevent hepatitis A -- a serious, sometimes fatal, liver disease, which can require hospitalization. The hepatitis A virus, present in the stool of infected people, spreads through:
Close personal contact, such as household or sexual contact, with an infected person
Contaminated water or ice
Contaminated raw shellfish, fruits, vegetables, or other uncooked foods
If you get hepatitis A as an adult, you are more likely to have signs and symptoms than young children who are infected. Symptoms may last less than two months and include:
Did You Know?
Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, at no cost to you. Learn more.
Which adults should receive the hepatitis A vaccine?
The CDC recommends that adults have the hepatitis A vaccine (HAV) if you:
Are traveling to or working in countries where hepatitis A is common (such as countries in Central or South America, Mexico, many Asian countries, Africa, and Eastern Europe); this disease is much more common than cholera or typhoid among international travelers.
Will have close contact with an international adoptee from a country where hepatitis A is common
Are a man who has sex with men
Use street drugs
Have chronic liver disease
Work with primates infected with hepatitis A or with the virus in a research lab
Also, if you work with food, you should consider getting the hepatitis A vaccine.
Are there any adults who should not get the vaccine?
Do not get the hepatitis vaccine if you:
Have ever had a severe allergic reaction to a hepatitis A vaccine or to any vaccine component; hepatitis A vaccines contain alum and some contain 2-phenoxyethanol.
How and when should you receive the hepatitis A vaccine?
You receive the injection of the hepatitis A vaccine in the muscle of your upper arm. Start the vaccine series when you are at risk of infection and at least one month before traveling. You need two doses at least six months apart.
There are also combination vaccines for adults that protect against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. However, these have a different dosing schedule. Ask your doctor for details. You might prefer this option if, for example, you are traveling to countries with high rates of both diseases.