The hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to make sure you cannot get the condition.
The hepatitis A vaccine has been used for many years, all over the world. Some people will get a sore spot or lump in the place where the vaccine was given. Or feel generally a bit unwell for a day or two afterwards. Serious side effects are extremely rare.
Because hepatitis A is so rare in the UK, the NHS does not vaccinate everyone against it.
But you can ask your GP for a free hepatitis A vaccine if:
- You have a long-term liver condition
- You have recently been in close contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- You are travelling to an area where hepatitis A is common
- You are a man who has sex with men
- You have a blood clotting condition e.g. haemophilia
Not all GP surgeries offer travel vaccines. If your surgery does not, they should be able to tell you where to get the vaccine in your area.
The hepatitis A vaccine uses a dead (inactivated) virus. So it is safe for people who are immunosuppressed to have the vaccine.
If your job means you are at risk from hepatitis A, your employer should organise a vaccine for you. For example if you are a sewage worker, you work in a large care institution, or you work in a microbiology or infectious disease laboratory.
If you might have already picked up hepatitis A, the vaccine can still help. You will need to have it within 14 days of getting the virus. If you have a long term (chronic) liver disease, or if you are immunosuppressed, you might have another treatment as well as the vaccine. This is called human normal immunoglobulin or HNIG. It contains antibodies to help you fight off the hepatitis A virus.
Hepatitis A is usually spread when the virus gets onto food or into drinking water. More rarely it can be spread by close physical contact, such as sex. It can be passed on for 7 days after you start to get jaundice or other symptoms. So during this time:
- Do not go to work or school
- Limit your contact with other people
- Wash your hands really well after going to the toilet
- Ask your doctor about medicines and other ways to cope with symptoms
- Do not prepare food for other people
- Use a condom or dam if you have sex
- Do not share needles with anyone else
Close contacts of someone who has hepatitis A might also be asked to take action to protect themselves. And to stop the spread of the condition. This could include:
- Having a vaccine
- Not preparing food for other people, especially people outside your household
- Taking extra care when changing the nappy of a baby with hepatitis A