Recently, there have been reports of a hepatitis A outbreak. Around 80 people across northeastern Arkansas have been diagnosed. There is also a report of a case in Fort Smith. Hepatitis A is viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. The virus is spread via the fecal-oral route. It can also be spread, though less commonly, by the ingestion of food or water containing the virus. Symptoms develop 2 to 6 weeks after the infection occurs. They may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Dark urine
- Grey-colored stools
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
These symptoms may range in severity from mild illness lasting only a few weeks to severe illness lasting several months. Though hepatitis A usually resolves without any complications, some people may have lasting liver damage. This may, rarely, lead to liver failure and death. Fortunately, hepatitis A is preventable due to a safe and effective vaccination. It is recommended for all children at the age of 1 and the following individuals older than 1 year:
- Individuals currently living in a community with a high rate of hepatitis A.
- Men who have sex with men.
- Individuals traveling to countries with high rates of hepatitis A.
- Chronic liver disease patients.
- Individuals with clotting-factor disorders.
- Users of recreational drugs (Injected or not).
The vaccine is administered as a 2 shot series given at least 6 months apart. There are a couple different choices when it comes to the actual vaccine. HAVRIX© and VAQTA© contain only the hepatitis A antigen, while TWINRIX© is a combination vaccine that contains both hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
One of our Express Rx pharmacists can tell you whether you have been fully vaccinated in the past for hepatitis A. They can also recommend the most appropriate vaccination for you. See your Express Rx pharmacist today.