What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an infection of the liver that causes fever, yellow skin and eyes, poor appetite, nausea, stomach pain and fatigue. It is caused by several different viruses. Prevention of hepatitis includes food and water precautions, safer sex practices, avoidance of needles, tattoos, piercings, and blood products abroad, and vaccination for some types. There are vaccines for Hepatitis A and B, but no vaccines exist for the other types of hepatitis.

Hepatitis A & E

Hepatitis A is passed by food, water and unwashed hands. Prolonged fatigue is common, and death occurs in one per cent of adults under 50 years of age. Hepatitis E is similar, but much more severe during pregnancy.

Hepatitis B & C

Hepatitis B is contracted through sexual contact as well as through exposure to unsterilized needles and contaminated blood products. Severe infection can cause death. About 10 per cent of infected adults develop chronic infection that may result in liver failure or cancer. Hepatitis C is similar but even more likely to cause chronic disease.

 

Prevention

Hepatitis A is prevented by food & water precautions and by getting a vaccination. The vaccine is given as one dose before travel with a booster after 6-12 months for prolonged protection.

Vaccine names: Avaxim® & Havrix®

Minimum age: 1 year

Primary series: 2 doses

Booster: No booster recommended after primary series

Duration: > 20 years

Price: $65 per dose

 

Hepatitis B is prevented by safer sex practices, avoidance of contaminated products and getting a vaccination. This vaccine is a series of three doses. The first two doses are necessary to get some protection before travelling. There are alternate scheduling options available. In Alberta, children receive all three doses at school during grade five.

Vaccine name: Engerix B®

Minimum age: Birth

Primary series: 3 doses (0, 1 & 6 months apart)

Booster: No booster recommended after primary series

Duration: > 20 years

Price: $40 per dose

 

Twinrix® vaccine protects against both Hepatitis A and B, and follows the Hepatitis B dosage schedule. There are alternate scheduling options available. Minimum of two doses are necessary before travel.

Vaccine name: Twinrix®

Minimum age: 1 year

Primary series: 3 doses (0, 1 & 6 months apart)

Booster: No booster recommended after primary series

Duration: > 20 years

Price: $75 per dose

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