Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines are now required immunizations for most children and adults. Many schools will not allow a child to attend an educational facility if the required hepatitis immunizations are not completed. These hepatitis immunizations are becoming increasingly important for people who travel and also for those in areas where sanitary conditions are poor.
The A strain of hepatitis is a virus that spreads by a person putting something in their mouth that has been contaminated with feces from a person infected with hepatitis A. The transmission of hepatitis A is common among drug users who share needles, through sexual contact, and through consuming food or water that has been infected. Hepatitis A causes the liver to become inflamed, which can cause fever, abdominal pain, dark urine, jaundice, and nausea. Symptoms usually appear within two to six weeks of being infected with the virus, and there is no treatment. The virus does not cause life-long complications, and the person develops immunity to hepatitis A after contracting the disease.
Vaccination is the only way to prevent a person from contracting hepatitis A. There are two rounds of the vaccine that are administered at least six months apart but within an 18-month time period. The immunization can be given to any child over 12 months old, and most physicians will include the vaccine in the normal childhood immunization schedule. Soreness at the site of the injection is the only common side effect of the immunizations.
Hepatitis B is spread through infected blood and blood serum or through sexual contact. Tattooing, drug use, and sharing toothbrushes or razors can spread the virus, which causes an inflammation of the liver. An infected mother can pass the disease to her infant during childbirth. The disease may only last a short amount of time, but it can become a chronic illness and the person can develop cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, or even liver failure. Hepatitis B is an epidemic in some countries and can only be prevented by hepatitis immunizations.
The vaccine for hepatitis B includes three injections that are given within an 18-month period. The first round is administered to an infant immediately after birth, and the second injection should be given one month later. A third shot is given six months later. The hepatitis immunizations do not actually contain any infected blood and a person cannot develop the disease from the vaccine.