UNDERSTAND YOUR RISK FOR HEPATITIS A
AN INFECTIOUS LIVER DISEASE
LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS PREVENTABLE DISEASE – FROM SYMPTOMS TO RISK FACTORS – AND THE IMPORTANCE OF VACCINATION
Dr. Len Friedland, practicing physician, vaccine researcher and Vice President and Director, Scientific Affairs and Public Health, Vaccines, GSK
October is National Liver Awareness Month, an important time to learn about vaccine-preventable forms of viral hepatitis, including Hepatitis A, a highly-infectious virus that affects the liver and can lead to sickness, hospitalization and even death, in some cases.[i] The US is currently experiencing a nationwide Hepatitis A outbreak, yet awareness and vaccination among adults remains shockingly low (~15%).[ii] After a consistent 20-year downward trend in cases, in 2017, Hepatitis A cases spiked nationwide, with 27 states experiencing active outbreaks in 2020. During this time, there have been more than 34,000 reported cases, with over 61% of infected people hospitalized, and 333 deaths, making it the largest person-to-person Hepatitis A virus outbreak in the postvaccine era.[iii],[iv]
DID YOU KNOW?
- Anyone who isn’t vaccinated can be at risk for Hepatitis A as it can be spread person-to-person or through contaminated food or drink.1
- People with Hepatitis A may not know that they are infected and can transmit the disease to others.1
- Most people in the US have not been vaccinated for Hepatitis A; creating opportunities for infection and spread. Additionally, more than half of older adults have never heard of or are unfamiliar with a vaccine for Hepatitis A (56%).[v]
- Hepatitis A vaccination isn’t only for higher risk groups or people traveling to certain parts of the world. The general public can come into contact with the virus when traveling even within the US and through contaminated food. For example, where food is prepared and served by food handlers infected with the Hepatitis A virus.1
- The CDC advises that anyone who wishes to be protected against Hepatitis A speak to their doctor or pharmacist about vaccination. Most commercial plans are required to cover vaccines recommended by the CDC and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
Raising awareness about Hepatitis A and vaccination is more important than ever.
- Immunization rates for most vaccines across all age groups have dropped significantly during COVID-19 and adult vaccination rates have dropped by over 80 percent since the peak of the pandemic.[vi] Everyone, not just those at high risk, can talk to their doctor or pharmacist about all vaccine-preventable forms of viral hepatitis and other CDC-recommended vaccines that may be needed during their next well visit. It is important to stay up-to-date on recommended vaccines to prevent unnecessary sickness and hospitalization, especially during the pandemic.[vii]
- For more information, visit CDC.gov/hepatitis/hav.
Good News Planet Hepatitis Q&A
- If someone has fatty liver, is it even more important to get the vaccination for hepatitis A and hepatitis B?
When living with fatty liver disease, it’s important to prevent any additional sources of potential liver damage. The US Centers for Disease Control and prevention recommends hepatitis A and B vaccination for people living with chronic liver diseases, including fatty liver disease and hepatitis C.1
- What is the difference between Hepatitis A and B and how do you recognize it? Is there a different treatment?
Hepatitis A and B are both viruses that affect the liver, and can cause serious illness or even death, but are transmitted in different ways and can cause a different course of illness.1 Hepatitis A is highly infectious, and is transmitted through person-to-person contact or contaminated food/drink, and usually causes a short-term illness.1 Hepatitis B is transmitted from mother to child during birth, blood, or through sexual contact, and can cause short or long-term illness, depending on the age of someone when they contract it.[viii] In the current outbreak, Hepatitis A has been associated with a high rate of hospitalization (nationally 60% of cases), with treatment mainly administered to combat unpleasant symptoms.1,4 Short-term treatment of hepatitis B may be similar, but long-term hepatitis B infections may require ongoing antiviral treatment to manage the virus and prevent liver damage.[ix]
- Can you get both [Hep A and B] vaccinations the same day and who gives this vaccination?
Hepatitis A and B vaccinations can be administered by a physician or pharmacist and can be given at the same time. The hepatitis A vaccine is a 2-dose vaccine series, for children 1 year of age and older, and adults, that can be completed in 6 months.[x] The hepatitis B vaccine is available in a 2-dose series for adults 18 years of age and older, which can be completed in 1 month, or a 3-dose series for all ages, which can be completed in 6 months.[xi] There is also a hepatitis A and B combination vaccine series available for adults 18 years of age and older, to provide protection against both viruses. While routine infant vaccination has been recommended for hepatitis A since 2006, and hepatitis B since 1991, most adults in the US are not protected against these viruses.[xii],[xiii] Nationally, only about 20% of adults 18 years of age and older have received even 1 dose of the hepatitis A vaccine and only about 25% of adults 19 years of age and older have completed the hepatitis B vaccine series.[xiv],[xv] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#overview.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccination coverage among adults
with chronic liver disease. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5805590/pdf/nihms934589.pdf.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis A Outbreaks in the United States. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/outbreaks/hepatitisaoutbreaks.htm.
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Widespread person-to-person outbreaks of hepatitis A across the United States. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/outbreaks/2017March-HepatitisA.htm.
5 GSK Survey by The Harris Poll. US Awareness Poll-Adults 50-79 years of age and PCPs 18 years. July-August 2020.
6 Medscape. Vaccine Rates for All Ages Drop Dramatically During COVID-19. Available at https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/931913.
7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccination Guidance During a Pandemic. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pandemic-guidance/index.html.
8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B Questions and Answers for the Public. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/bfaq.htm.
9 Mayo Clinic. Hepatitis B. Accessed at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-b/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20366821.
10 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis A VIS. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hep-a.html#:~:text=Children%20need%202%20doses%20of,months%20after%20the%20first%20dose.
11 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention of Hepatitis B Virus Infection in the United States: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/rr/rr6701a1.htm.
12 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis A Vaccination Coverage Among U.S. Children Aged 12–23 Months — Immunization Information System Sentinel Sites, 2006—2009. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5925a3.htm?s_cid=mm5925a3_w.
13 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule — United States, 1995. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00038256.htm
14 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccination Coverage Among Adults in the United States, National Health Interview Survey, 2016. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/coverage/adultvaxview/pubs-resources/NHIS-2016.html.
15 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccination Coverage among Adults in the United States, National Health Interview Survey, 2017. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/coverage/adultvaxview/pubs-resources/NHIS-2017.html.
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