May 1, 2018
Most mothers implore their children to wash their hands, and
few kids realize doing so could keep them from getting sick from a virus that
spreads through contact with human feces.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral infection of the
liver, spread when someone contacts — and ingests — human feces infected with
the virus. Dirty hands can
spread the fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — into food and drinks.
The disease can
make a person very ill; sick enough that in some cases hepatitis A can be
hepatitis A as a pediatrician, and it makes children incredibly sick,”
said Ryan Van Ramshorst, MD,
who cares for children in San Antonio and is a Texas Medical Association (TMA)
symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin and/or of the
whites of the eyes, dark urine, pale stool, joint pain, itching, and loss of
appetite. Someone could spread the disease without knowing they have it because
symptoms might not appear until two to six weeks after swallowing contaminated
food or drinks.
children might not show symptoms at all. In other cases, symptoms can be severe
and last for months.
No cure exists for
hepatitis A, which attacks the liver (the word "hepatitis" means
inflammation of the liver). Physicians can only treat the symptoms.
In most cases,
symptoms clear within six months and leave no permanent liver damage.
The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1,390 people contracted hepatitis
A nationwide in 2015, and 67 of them died. For those who aren't vaccinated, all
it takes is something like one bad visit to the wrong restaurant to get really,
unvaccinated person can get hepatitis A — so it can spread easily from an
infected person to family members, sexual partners, and close contacts.
The good news
is that the number of hepatitis A cases in Texas dropped from 461 in 2005 to
just 147 in 2015 (the most recent data available), according to the Texas Department
of State Health Services. That is because people are getting vaccinated.
is a vaccine that
prevents hepatitis A,” said Dr. Van Ramshorst, who is a member of TMA’s Be Wise
– ImmunizeSM Physician Advisory Panel. He recommends it for his
patients. Children 12 months of age can receive the first shot, and are
eligible for a follow-up booster vaccine six to 12 months later to receive
lifelong protection from the virus. Adults also can get the hepatitis A
vaccine, and physicians and other health experts recommend the two-shot series six
months apart for long-term protection.
against the disease have been recommended for all U.S. schoolchildren since
2006. Today, those most at risk of getting hepatitis A are unvaccinated people
over the age of 30 who visit a country with high rates of the disease. (People
younger than age 30 likely received the vaccine as children.) The hepatitis A
vaccine is safe and widely accepted, so immunization rates are high.
Find more information on hepatitis A and
vaccinations on the TMA website.
This release is part of a
monthly TMA series highlighting contagious diseases that childhood and adult
vaccinations can prevent. TMA designed the series to inform patients of the facts
about these diseases, and to help them understand the benefits of vaccinations
to prevent illness. Visit the TMA website to see reports on measles and human papillomavirus (HPV).
TMA is the largest state
medical society in the nation, representing more than 51,000 physician and
medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county
medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to
improve the health of all Texans. Be Wise — Immunize is a joint initiative led
by TMA physicians and medical students, and the TMA Alliance. It is funded in
2018 by the TMA Foundation thanks to H-E-B, TMF Health Quality Institute,
Pfizer Inc., and gifts from physicians and their families.
Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical
TMA Contacts: Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org
Marcus Cooper (512)
370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org
Connect with TMA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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