Ron Warner, Ph.D., is an Infectious Disease Specialist and Professor at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. He has provided this information to our viewers in addition to the questions he answered in our segment on NewsChannel 11 at Ten. -Karin McCay
Hepatitis A is a human-to-human viral disease, spread by fecal-oral transmission … not by coughing, sneezing, or hand-slapping. The vaccine is a non-live, partial-viral inactivated vaccine, safe for use in those 12 months of age or older, unless you have had a prior reaction to the vaccine.
Those who should not be vaccinated are: kids younger than 12 months of age; someone currently receiving chemotherapy or immune suppression for organ transplantation; or those with pre-existing severe liver disease.
The hepatitis A virus is excreted through the intestine after it leaves the liver. Adequate hand-washing is the best means of preventing food-drink contamination. It's not easily spread within families; however, it is easily spread among children in day-care settings because the kids have less-than-perfect hand hygiene and often contaminate toys and put them in their mouths.
Pregnant women and those who might be breastfeeding can receive the vaccine, and there should be no risk to the breastfeeding infant.
If you have been previously vaccinated against hepatitis A, or have ever been diagnosed with the disease, you already have a lifetime of protective antibodies against the virus. If you have any other concerns, check with your personal physician.
-Ron Warner, Ph.D. TTUHSC-Professor
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