Postexposure Treatment for Hepatitis A
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a disease that affects the liver and is caused by the hepatitis A virus.1
How is it contracted?
Hepatitis A is spread primarily when an uninfected and unvaccinated person ingests food or water that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person. This can happen a number of ways, such as if those handling the food at a restaurant haven't properly washed their hands, or by drinking or eating contaminated food, water, and ice in areas with poor sanitation, which is why travelers to developing countries should be careful. Sexual contact with an infected person and illegal drug use can increase risk of infection as well.1
What are the symptoms?
Those exposed to hepatitis A may experience symptoms 2 to 6 weeks after exposure, and symptoms may develop over a period of several days. Some people do not have any symptoms. Symptoms include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, light-colored stool, dark urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).1
How can I prevent hepatitis A?
The key to prevention is proper vaccination. The CDC recommends receiving the hepatitis A vaccine as early as possible. For those in high-risk situations, such as those traveling to developing countries (especially tourists, military personnel, business travelers, students, and missionaries), people with multiple sex partners, or people who use illegal drugs, the CDC recommends the use of a hepatitis A immune globulin like GamaSTAN in conjunction with a vaccine.1
What is an immune globulin, and why isn't a vaccine enough?
An intramuscular immune globulin is a sterile solution of immune globulin for postexposure treatment of hepatitis A. An intramuscular immune globulin works much faster than a vaccine but does not last as long. Doctors will give you a hepatitis A immune globulin shot such as GamaSTAN and a vaccine to make sure you get the comprehensive care you need.2,3