Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness. The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infectious person. While this is an acute, short term illness, and almost everybody recovers from it, it is important to take preventative measures. Remember, prevention is always better than cure, so keep in mind these steps to prevent catching and/or spreading hepatitis A.
On World Hepatitis Day we discuss the steps you can take to prevent the Hepatitis A infection.
1. The most important step is to get vaccinated. The Hepatitis A vaccine can prevent infection with the virus. It is typically given in two doses- an initial vaccination, followed by a booster shot six months later. It is recommended that all children older than age 1 receive it. People at a higher risk for hepatitis should receive the vaccine as well. You may be at a higher risk if you work in health care or are a laboratory worker who may come in contact with the virus, have chronic liver disease, use illegal drugs (both injected and non-injected) or if you are a man who has sex with men.
2. You must practice good hygiene and thoroughly wash your hands often, especially after using the toilet or changing a diaper, and before preparing food or eating.
3. It is also important to avoid unclean food and water like dairy products or raw/undercooked meat and fish. If bottled water isn’t available, boil water for a full minute before drinking it.
4. The spread of hepatitis A can be reduced by proper disposal of sewage within communities as well.
5. If you travel or work in areas where hepatitis A is common, it is important to get vaccinated. These areas include Africa, Eastern Europe, The Middle East, Mexico, Central and South America and Asia.