CDC Prevention Guidelines Database (Archive)
Hepatitis A Prevention
Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases National Center for Infectious Diseases Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Publication date: 10/01/1993
Table of Contents
- Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by hepatitis A virus.
- Hepatitis A can be prevented.
- Learn more about hepatitis A and how you can protect yourself from this disease.
How is hepatitis A spread?Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of persons with hepatitis A. The virus is usually spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of an infected person; for this reason, the virus is more easily spread under poor sanitary conditions, and when good personal hygiene is not observed.
Sexual and household contact can spread the virus; casual contact as, for example, in the usual office or factory setting, does not spread the virus.
Can Hepatitis A be spread by food or water?People can get hepatitis A by consuming contaminated water or ice; raw shellfish harvested form sewage-contaminated water; and fruits and vegetables, or other foods eaten uncooked that many have become contaminated during handling.
Who is at risk?In the United States, hepatitis A virus is present in most communities and can cause isolated cases of disease or widespread epidemics. Especially at risk are
- Persons who share a household or have sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A.
- Children and employees in child care centers (especially centers that have children in diapers) where a child or an employee has hepatitis A.
- Travelers to developing countries where hepatitis A is common and where clean water and proper sewage disposal are not available.
- Residents and staff of institutions for disabled children when a resident or an employee has hepatitis A.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?Three of every four persons infected with hepatitis A virus have symptoms. When symptoms are present, they usually develop suddenly and may include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin and eyeballs. Adults have symptoms more often than children.
A person is most infectious about one week before symptoms appear and during the first week of symptoms. However, an infected person who has no symptoms can still spread the virus. Unlike some other forms of viral hepatitis, hepatitis A causes no long-term damage and is usually not fatal.
How can you prevent hepatitis A?Good personal hygiene, e.g., washing hands after using the bathroom, prevents the spread of hepatitis A virus infection.
Can the virus be killed?The virus is killed by boiling at 85 degrees C (185 degrees F) for 1 minute; cooked foods can still spread the disease if they are contaminated after cooking. Adequate chlorination of water (as recommended in the United States) kills hepatitis A virus.
What is immune globulin and how can it prevent hepatitis A?No specific treatment exists for hepatitis A. However, immune globulin, a blood by product, is used as temporary protection against this disease. When immune globulin is given, a person receives protective antibody from someone who is already immune. Side effects due to immune globulin are rare. Immune globulin produced in the United States has not been associated with any diseases, including AIDS, and can be given to pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Immune globulin is used to prevent hepatitis A both before and within 2 weeks after exposure to hepatitis A virus. If you think that you have been exposed to hepatitis A virus, contact your physician or local health department to determine whether immune globulin is right for you.
Prevent Hepatitis APractice good personal hygiene -- wash hands after using the bathroom and before handling food or eating.
If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis A, ask your physician or local health department if immune globulin is right for you.
When traveling to areas where hepatitis A is common, avoid drinking water that may not be clean and eating uncooked fruits or vegetables.
Take immune globulin just before traveling to areas where hepatitis A is common -- travelers to even popular tourist areas in Mexico should receive immune globulin before travel.
If you will be living for a long time in a country where hepatitis A is common, take an increased dose of immune globulin every 5 months to stay protected against hepatitis A.
A vaccine for long-term protection against hepatitis A is being developed and should become available soon.
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DIVISION OF VIRAL & RICKETTSIAL DISEASES
CDC/NCID/DVRD/HB MS G-37
1600 Clifton Rd. N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30333