The rate of hepatitis A infections continue to steadily grow globally, with certain nations and regions posing a risk to the health of travellers. Most infectious diseases present symptoms, and help individuals identify the condition, thereby protecting others from getting infected. However, with Hepatitis A infections, there is a possibility that some individuals may not exhibit or experience any symptoms whatsoever. This increases the risk of infections among individuals who come in contact with the contagious disease. Additionally, while most infections used to be regarded as relatively mild or moderate with some experiencing adverse conditions, the actual percentage of patients hospitalized for hep A is steadily increasing. Here is an in-depth look at the infection, the need for vaccines and possible side effects of hep a vaccine.

Overview of the liver infection

The highly contagious infection afflicts the liver, causing inflammation, in addition to triggering mild or sometimes severe sickness.  Individuals who fall sick as a result of the infection may sometimes require weeks to fully heal from the infection.  Long term damage to the liver is another possible outcome of the infection, though it is known to affect only a very small percentage of patients with the condition. Mortality rates are very low, and is limited mostly to patients with existing liver ailments and degenerative conditions that are associated with aging.

How does hep a spread?

The disease has earned notoriety as a contagious infection, and is primarily the result of poor hygiene. Individuals in communities that practice poor hygiene, with no access to sanitation facilities, or clean drinking water are prone exposed to risk of contracting the infection. Additionally, certain categories of individuals are also at risk of contracting the infection – such as males with different sex orientation, and drug addicts who share needles. Communities where ablutions are performed in the open, or wherever feces are not quickly flushed through sewage systems, are also at risk of witnessing a high rate of infections, as coming into contact with feces of an infected person can give individuals an infection.

Tell-tale symptoms of hepatitis A infections 

As outlined above, there is the possibility of individuals not exhibiting or experiencing any symptoms whatsoever, despite being infected. This is the risk factor in communities that have poor hygiene and sanitation. However, in most cases, the infection triggers certain tell-tale symptoms, and helps in quickly identifying or confirming the condition. Some of the symptoms include:

As known commonly, most of the above symptoms are known to resolve in around 7 or 8 weeks. Hospitalization was rare earlier among the infected, but this has changed with more and more patients requiring hospitalization to deal with the condition.

Is it true that infected individuals will not get re-infected?

Yes, it is indeed true that individuals infected with hepatitis A, will not be re-infected again. This protection extends throughout life, as the body’s natural response generates antibodies, which accord protection from re-infection for life.

The vaccine offers protection for a period that could range from 20 years to a lifetime, in individuals who have received both doses of the antigen. The actual protection from the infection will kick in after two weeks from the time of vaccination of the first dose, and after the second dose has been administered after the ideal gap of months.

Is there a live virus in hep A vaccine?

It is conclusively stated that there is no live virus in hepatitis A vaccine. It can be safely administered to pregnant women, in addition to individuals diagnosed with auto immune conditions.

Why take the vaccine when the infection offers protection from reinfection?

The recovery rate of hepatitis infection is high, and individuals who recover from the infection receive protection that lasts a lifetime. However, the actual effects of the infection differ from person to person and it is difficult to predict with certainty about the outcomes in each individual. In other words, an infected person may end up with serious effects, or may require hospitalization. This could have an impact on routines and professional abilities. Another compelling reason is the increase in percentage of hospitalizations among the infected. Finally, individuals suffering from certain comorbidities, explained in subsequent sections, may not be aware of the developing nature of comorbidities, and may end up with adverse outcomes of the infection.

Is the hepatitis A vaccine different from the hepatitis B vaccine?

Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are infections that impact the liver. While the former is known as an acute infection with short term effect, the latter can sometimes end up as a long-term chronic infection. There are distinctions in the manner in which the infection spreads. For instance, Hep A spreads through contact and contaminated substances that are shared with infected individuals. Hep B spreads only through blood contact, and therefore the possibility of Hep B infections spreading like Hep A are relatively limited.

The vaccines for the infections are different, while Hep A vaccines are typically taken in two doses with a gap of six months between the first and the second dose, the Hep B vaccines are generally administered as a three-dosage schedule. However, new vaccines available in the market now offer patients the option of taking a two-dose schedule. The two vaccines are different; however, there are combination vaccines that offer protection from both hep A and hep B infections. The three-dose hep B vaccine cannot be administered for individuals below the age of 18, and all three doses need to be taken within a window of six months for the vaccine to be effective.

High risk categories of individuals who may get infected easily

While the probability of contracting the infection may be the same for most individuals, there are certain high-risk categories of individuals. The risk of contracting the infection is highest among this category of individuals, as listed below:

The above categories of individuals need to be administered the vaccine on priority to prevent the infection from spreading. Patients with cirrhosis of the liver, and chronic liver disease are also part of the high-risk category, in addition to being the category of individuals with the highest risk of mortality. It is therefore essential to identify and administer the dosages on priority to enhance and protect the health of entire communities.

Tips to manage the side effects of hep A vaccine

The most commonly reported side effect from the vaccine is inflammation that may occur at the injection site, with individuals also experiencing some kind of warm feeling. The possibility of the area around the actual injection site turning red is also likely. This does not indicate any other undesirable effect, but is mainly an outcome that may be felt even when other injections are administered.

Other effects that may be experienced include loss of appetite for a short period immediately after receiving the shot. Most individuals are likely to revert back to old appetite after a few days of the vaccine. Effects that may be experienced in addition to the above include:

Unwanted outcomes of vaccination that are considered as strong or serious in nature 

Commonly reported outcomes that are serious or adverse in nature include the following:

Drug interactions of the hepatitis vaccine?

There is the possibility of hepatitis A vaccines interacting with various drugs. Patients on the following medications are advised to seek medical advice regarding vaccination and specific measures to avoid or mitigate the interactions.  Drug interactions are attributed to the immune activation of lymphocytes. During this process, the released B, T cells end up attacking the antigen. Consequently, the vaccine may lose its ability to offer long term protection.

What procedures need to be followed while taking the vaccine?

It is necessary to follow certain procedures while taking the vaccine, as this would help ward off undesirable effects. However, it is necessary to avoid getting paranoid about possible complications, over simple issues such as a common cold. When the cold is either severe or the individual suffers from a chronic condition, it may be necessary to seek specific advice. The following precautions or steps are suggested to safely receive the shots.

Effects that require urgent medical attention

Most side effects of the vaccine are typically mild or moderate and will not require any kind of urgent medical attention. However, there are a few conditions that require medical attention, mainly in order to prevent the condition from turning serious in nature.

For instance, indications of allergies are to be dealt with seriousness, and a sense of urgency. This is especially true in the case of certain symptoms such as difficulty in breathing. This may quickly turn into an emergency, as breathing difficulties from allergies can be serious conditions. Other symptoms that require urgent intervention in a healthcare facility include the following:


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