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Hepatitis Vaccination Guide

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/26/2010

Are you at risk for hepatitis A or B? If so, read on to learn more about the hepatitis vaccines that can help to prevent these two infections.

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    Hepatitis is a virus characterized by an inflamed liver. As of now, there are vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. The other three types of hepatitis do not yet have any vaccinations available. Hepatitis A affects approximately 100,000 Americans each year. This type of hepatitis is primarily found in the blood and stools of an infected person. Coming into contact with infected blood or stool is what puts a person at risk for developing the infection. Hepatitis B has affected approximately 12 million Americans. This type of hepatitis is primarily found in and spread through infected semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and other body fluids. Direct contact with infected blood, using or being pricked by an infected needle, and unprotected sex with an infected person is what puts a person at risk for developing an infection. To be protected against these two infections, there is a hepatitis vaccine for each of them.

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    What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis?

    The symptoms of these two types hepatitis are similar, but there is a few differences. The symptoms of hepatitis A include:

    • Dark urine
    • Itching
    • Low-grade fever
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Jaundice
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of appetite
    • Clay-colored or pale stools

    The symptoms of hepatitis B include:

    • Loss of appetite
    • Low-grade fever
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fatigue
    • Joint and muscle aches
    • Jaundice-related dark urine and yellow skin
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    What is the Hepatitis Vaccine and What is its Purpose?

    hepatitis vaccine The hepatitis vaccine is administered to prevent the occurrence of hepatitis. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A and a separate vaccine for hepatitis B. In order to be protected from both of these types of hepatitis, patients will need to get both vaccines, and every dose of each vaccine.

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    What are the Possible Hepatitis Vaccine Side Effects?

    The side effects of each hepatitis vaccine varies. The side effects associated with the hepatitis A vaccine tend to last up to 48 hours if they do occur and include:

    • Injection site soreness
    • Loss of appetite
    • Headache
    • Tiredness

    A serious allergic reaction is rare, but can occur.

    The side effects associated with the hepatitis B vaccine can include:

    • Injection site soreness
    • Temperature higher than 99.9 degrees Fahrenheit

    Serious problems only happen in extremely rare cases, such as severe allergic reactions which affect approximately every one in 1.1 million doses.

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    Who Should Not Get the Hepatitis Vaccine?

    In some cases, certain factors may prevent a patient from being able to get one or both of these vaccinations.

    Those who may not be able to have the hepatitis A vaccination include:

    • Those who have had a previous, severe allergic reaction to this vaccine
    • Those who are severely ill
    • Those who have had a previous, severe allergic reaction to alum, 2-phenoxyethanol or any other vaccine component
    • Pregnant women

    Those who may not be able to have the hepatitis B vaccine include:

    • Those who have had a previous, severe allergic reaction to this vaccine
    • Those who have a severe allergic reaction to baker's yeast that could be life-threatening
    • Those who are moderately to severely ill
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    Resources

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). List of Vaccines Used in United States. Retrieved on June 23, 2010 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hepa/default.htm#safety

    Medline Plus. (2009). Hepatitis A. Retrieved on June 23, 2010 from Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000278.htm

    Medline Plus. (2009). Hepatitis B. Retrieved on June 23, 2010 from Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000279.htm

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    Image Credits

    Syringe and Vial: zeathiel – sxc.hu