How can you prevent hepatitis A?

There is a vaccine, made from an inactivated—dead—virus to prevent hepatitis A. If you are not sure you have had the vaccine, you can ask your doctor to test you to see if you have been vaccinated.

You can also practice good hand washing hygiene. Make sure you use soap and warm water to wash your hands for at least 15 to 30 seconds after you use the toilet, change diapers, and before and after touching food.

If you are traveling in another country, especially a developing country, drink only bottled water and use only bottled water to brush your teeth, wash your produce, and freeze for ice cubes.

Who should get the hepatitis A vaccine?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all children in the U.S. get vaccinated against hepatitis A at age 12 months. However, if an infant aged 6-11 months will be traveling to a country with a significant number of people with hepatitis A, the child should get one dose before leaving the U.S. The child should then get 2 doses separated by 6 to 18 months when the child is between 12 months and 23 months.

You should also get the hepatitis A vaccine if you fall into one of the following groups:

  • Men who have sexual contact with other men.
  • Users of any type of illegal drugs.
  • People with blood clot disorders, such as hemophilia.
  • People who have chronic liver disease.
  • Homeless people.
  • People who will be closely involved with a person being adopted from a country with high rates of hepatitis A infections.

How long does the hepatitis A vaccine last?

We don’t know exactly how long the protection of the vaccine lasts, but studies have indicated that it lasts at least 20 years in some people and it could last as long as 40 years or more. Having only one dose of the recommended two-dose vaccine has shown to provide protection for at least 10 years.

How can you be protected against hepatitis A virus (HAV) if you are allergic to something in the vaccine or are younger than six months old when traveling outside of the U.S.?

These people can get one dose of immune globulin (IG) before the leaving the U.S. This will protect against HAV for as long as two months. If you stay out of the country for longer than two months, you can receive another dose of IG.

Can bleach or cleaner kill hepatitis A?

Disinfectant that contains bleach can kill the hepatitis A virus (HAV) on hard non-porous surfaces like toilet seats. However, freezing does not kill HAV.

If you cook food that is contaminated for one minute at cooking temperatures higher than 185ºF (85ºC), it will kill HAV. However, food can be contaminated after cooking, so it is very important to wash your hands well with soap and water.

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