Hepatitis A cases are on the rise. In 2017, there were 583 cases of Hepatitis A reported in Southeast Michigan. As a result, 482 people were hospitalized and 20 died. These numbers are alarming, given that in 2014, Michigan saw only 51 cases of Hepatitis A. Luckily, there is a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis A, and now Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network cover the vaccine at pharmacies around the state for commercial and Medicare members.
So, what exactly is Hepatitis A and why does someone need the vaccine? Learn more about its transmission, symptoms, treatment and prevention:
Hepatitis A is a contagious disease that causes an acute infection of the liver. It’s typically spread through the fecal matter of someone infected with the disease. You can contract Hepatitis A from someone who didn’t wash his or her hands properly after using the restroom or changing a diaper, and then touched your food or drink. It can also be contracted through sexual contact with an infected person or through contaminated food or water. Water or food contamination is more likely to occur in areas with poor sanitary conditions. The virus can survive outside of the body for months and is not killed by freezing temperatures.
Many people infected with Hepatitis A show no symptoms. Some people may experience the following symptoms two to seven weeks after being exposed to the virus, however some symptoms can last for several months:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
Most people who contract Hepatitis A improve on their own without treatment, and their bodies develop antibodies preventing them from contracting the virus ever again. In some cases, however, Hepatitis A can cause liver failure that leads to death.
There is a simple way to prevent Hepatitis A: a vaccine. The vaccines (Havrix® and Vaqta®) contain inactive Hepatitis A virus, given as two doses. Havrix® doses are given six to 12 months apart, while Vaqta® is given six to 18 months apart. There is also a combination form of the vaccine that prevents both Hepatitis A and B (Twinrix®). The combination vaccine can only be administered to people 18 years of age or older, and is given as three shots over a six-month period or four shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Hepatitis A vaccinations for all children beginning at age 1 year, people at high risk for infection and travelers to countries where Hepatitis A is common. Also, unvaccinated people who have been exposed recently (within two weeks) to the Hepatitis A virus should get the Hepatitis A vaccine.
For more information, or to get vaccinated, call or visit your doctor or local pharmacy to see if they offer the hepatitis A vaccine and check if it is in stock. Staying healthy and preventing Hepatitis A is easier than ever now that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network cover Hepatitis A vaccines at pharmacies around the state.
If you liked this post and want to learn more about vaccines and other prevention methods, check out these blogs:
- What Every Parent Needs to Know About Vaccines
- 6 Things Everyone Should Know About the Flu Shot
- How Do Vaccines Actually Work? A Pharmacist Explains
Photo Credit: Global Panorama