REDUCING YOUR RISK OF VIRAL HEPATITIS
Hepatitis is a contagious disease that is preventable. Basic preventive principles include avoiding contact with other people’s blood or bodily fluids and practicing good sanitation. In addition, vaccines are available to prevent some types of hepatitis. They are given to people at high risk of contracting the disease.
AVOID CONTACT WITH BLOOD AND BODILY FLUIDS
Infected blood and bodily fluids can spread hepatitis. To avoid contact:
- Do not inject illicit drugs, especially with shared needles. Seek help to stop using drugs.
- Do not have sex with partners who have hepatitis or other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Practice safe sex (use latex condoms) or abstain from sex.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. A mutually monogamous relationship is best.
- Avoid sharing personal hygiene products (e.g., toothbrushes, razors, etc.).
- Avoid handling items that may be contaminated with hepatitis-infected blood.
- Donate your own blood before elective surgery so it can be used if you need a blood transfusion.
- If you get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure the artist or piercer properly sterilizes the equipment before use. You might get infected if the tools have someone else's blood on them.
Health care professionals should always follow routine barrier precautions and safely handle needles and other sharp instruments.
Wear gloves when touching or cleaning up bodily fluids on personal items, such as:
Cover open cuts or wounds.
Use only sterile needles for drug injections, blood draws , ear piercing, and tattooing.
If you are pregnant, have a blood test for hepatitis B. Infants born to mothers with hepatitis B should be treated within 12 hours after birth.
PRACTICE GOOD SANITATION
Good sanitation can prevent the transmission of some forms of hepatitis, especially hepatitis A,D and E.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food.
- Carefully clean all household utensils after use.
GET A VACCINE, IF RECOMMENDED
If you are in a high-risk group, ask your doctor about getting a hepatitis vaccine. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B.
Hepatitis A vaccine is made from inactive hepatitis A virus, and is highly effective in preventing infection. A 2-shot series of shots usually (but not always) provides long-lasting protection.
The hepatitis vaccine takes a month to become fully effective, so plan to get your injection early if you need it for travel. For a single, short trip or if you need immediate protection, the Center for Disease Control continues to recommend a gamma globulin injection.
A hepatitis A vaccine is generally recommended for:
- People who have a chronic liver disease or a clotting factor disorder
- People who live in areas with poor sanitary conditions or who have close physical contact with people who do
- People traveling to countries where sanitary conditions are poor
- Children who live in areas that have high rates of hepatitis A or repeated hepatitis A epidemics
- People who have occupational risk for hepatitis A (for example, work involving primates, research labs)
- People who use illicit drugs (injecting or non-injecting)
- Men who have sex with men
Check with your doctor to see if you should receive the vaccine, and if so, how many injections you should have. Hepatitis B can be prevented through vaccination. Anyone at increased risk for hepatitis B should be vaccinated. The vaccine is generally recommended for:
- Health-care workers
- Public-safety workers
- People who provide direct services to those with developmental disabilities
- Inmates of long-term correctional facilities
- People with multiple sex partners
- Men who have sex with men
- People who inject illegal drugs
- People living with someone who has hepatitis B
- People who have a sex partner with hepatitis B
- People who have a bleeding disorder that requires treatment with blood products
- People on kidney dialysis
- Travel or living in areas where hepatitis B is common
- People who are immigrants, or the children of immigrants, from areas of the world with moderate or high rates of hepatitis B
- People diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease
- Infants born to infected mothers
TAKE IMMUNE (GAMMA) GLOBULIN, IF RECOMMENDED
This is an injection containing antibodies that help provide protection from hepatitis A for about 1-3 months. It is usually given:
- Before exposure to the virus, or
- Within 2 weeks after exposure to the virus