What is hepatitis A ?
From the VIS “ Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease. It is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is spread from person to person through contact with the feces (stool) of people who are infected, which can easily happen if someone does not wash his or her hands properly. You can also get hepatitis A from food, water, or objects contaminated with HAV. Symptoms of hepatitis A can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and/ or joint pain, severe stomach pains and diarrhea (mainly in children), or jaundice (yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements). These symptoms usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after exposure and usually last less than 2 months, although some people can be ill for as long as 6 months. If you have hepatitis A you may be too ill to work. Children often do not have symptoms, but most adults do. You can spread HAV without having symptoms. Hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, although this is rare and occurs more commonly in persons 50 years of age or older and persons with other liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C.”
The hepatitis A vaccine was approved in 1995 for ages 2 and up. Then in 2005 it was approved for ages 1 and up. The ACIP recommends vaccines and creates the vaccine schedule used by pediatricians. In 1995 and 1999 they advised hepatitis A vaccination for high risk communities and in 2006 recommended routine vaccination of all children. (1)
Despite the universal recommendation some pediatricians continued to only vaccinate high-risk groups. Schools in my state do not require hepatitis A vaccination. Some parents choose to only accept vaccines required for school so many children lack this vaccine.
Hepatitis A is common – about 30% of people in the U.S. are infected. About 1% of those infected die. (2)
Reasons to get the hepatitis A vaccine as a child
I strongly advise all my patients to get the vaccine. It used to be that only people traveling out of the country got this vaccine but there are now outbreaks within the U.S.. California, Indiana, Michigan, Utah, Missouri, West VIrginia, Kentucky and Indiana are having outbreaks. Most infections are in high-risk people (drug users and the homeless) but not all cases. And a high-risk person may be working in a kitchen preparing your food and that is how hepatitis A can spread. People die from hepatitis A.
There are practical and financial advantages to childhood vaccination. The vaccine is provided free to children from the government. Most all pediatric offices stock it. In contrast very few adult medical offices stock the vaccine. Also many insurances do not cover the cost of the vaccine for adults even if they are high-risk. If you get both doses as a child you are set for life. You can travel both within the U.S. and abroad.