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How can I avoid getting hepatitis A, B and C?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Hepatitis A
You can avoid getting hepatitis A by getting the hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccines are medicines that keep you from getting sick. Vaccines teach the body to attack specific germs. The hepatitis A vaccine teaches your body to attack the hepatitis A virus. The hepatitis A vaccine is given through two shots. The second shot is given six to 12 months after the first shot. You need to take both shots to be fully protected from the virus.

All children should be vaccinated and must be at least 12 months old to get the first shot. Discuss the hepatitis A vaccine with your child's doctor. Adults at higher risk of getting hepatitis A and people with chronic liver disease should also be vaccinated.

If you are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common, including Mexico, try to get both shots before you go. If you do not have time to get both shots before you travel, get the first shot as soon as possible. Most people gain some protection within two weeks after the first shot.

You can take the following steps to protect yourself and others from hepatitis A:

  • Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water after using the toilet or changing diapers and before fixing or eating food.
  • Use bottled water for drinking, making ice cubes and washing fruits and vegetables when you are in a developing country.

Hepatitis C
You can protect yourself and others from hepatitis C by taking the following steps:

  • Do not share drug needles.
  • Wear gloves if you have to touch another person's blood.
  • Do not borrow another person's toothbrush, razor or anything else that could have blood on it.
  • Make sure any tattoos or body piercings you get are done with sterile tools.
  • Do not donate blood or blood products if you have hepatitis C.
  • Use a condom during sex.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Following are ways you can avoid getting hepatitis A, B and C:

The hepatitis A vaccination is the best way to prevent infection by hepatitis A virus (HAV). Other ways to stop the spread of HAV are:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and warm water immediately after using the bathroom or changing a diaper.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before preparing or eating food.
  • If you're traveling to a high-risk area, such as an undeveloped nation, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need a vaccination. Also, ask about good hygiene practices and clean, safe water supplies where you're traveling. You may be told to avoid uncontrolled water sources, raw shellfish and uncooked food. All fruit should be washed and peeled. Boiling water or adding iodine inactivates the virus.
  • People with HAV infection who are treated at home should follow strict hygiene precautions, as should those around them.

The hepatitis B vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis B virus (HBV). Other ways to stop the spread of HBV are:

  • Do not share needles.
  • Practice safe sex.
  • Do not share razors, toothbrushes or other personal items.
  • Use only clean, sterile needles for tattoos and body piercings.

There is no vaccine to prevent the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The only way to prevent HCV is to avoid direct contact with infected blood. Other ways to stop the spread of HCV are:

  • Do not share needles.
  • Practice safe sex.
  • Do not share razors, toothbrushes or other personal items.
  • Use only clean, sterile needles for tattoos and body piercings.
  • Get medical care if you are exposed to blood or needle sticks at work.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.