Always wash your hands thoroughly if you think you may have come into contact with fecal matter.
Hepatitis A is caused by exposure to microscopic amounts of fecal matter from an infected person. Because these microscopic contaminants can be extremely difficult to detect, vaccination is the most reliable way to prevent hepatitis A.
Anyone can get hepatitis A. However, in the U.S. the following people are at higher risk:
- People who use illegal drugs.
- Individuals who live in or travel to areas where hepatitis A is common.
- Men or women who participate in oral-anal contact with someone infected with hepatitis A.
- Those who have blood clotting-factor disorders, such as hemophilia.
- Men who have sexual contact with men.
- Persons who live with others who have hepatitis A.
In rare cases, untreated hepatitis A can lead to permanent liver damage.
If you suspect you are at risk for hepatitis A, see a doctor and get vaccinated. If you think you may already have hepatitis A, consult a physician for treatment.
The hepatitis A virus can live outside the body for months.
It can survive the body’s highly acidic digestive system. Boiling foods and liquids for at least one minute at 185°F (85°C) can kill the virus. Freezing temperatures do not kill the virus.
Anyone considering adoption in Ethiopia should receive the hepatitis A vaccine before traveling.
The adopted child should be evaluated, and any health care providers, caregivers, or children under the age of six who will be in contact with the child should be vaccinated upon return to your respective country.
If you have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A and you were recently exposed to the virus, you might benefit from an injection of either hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin. However, to be effective both must be given within the first two weeks of exposure.