• Reducing Your Risk of Viral Hepatitis

    Hepatitis is a contagious disease that is preventable. Basic preventive principles include avoiding contact with other people’s blood or bodily fluids and practicing good sanitation. In addition, vaccines are available to prevent some types of hepatitis. They are given to people at high risk of contracting the disease.

    Avoid Contact With Blood and Bodily Fluids

    Infected blood and bodily fluids can spread hepatitis. To avoid contact:
    • Do not inject illicit drugs , especially with shared needles. Seek help to stop using drugs.
    • Do not have sex with partners who have hepatitis or other sexually transmitted diseases .
    • Practice safe sex using latex condoms or abstain from sex.
    • Limit your number of sexual partners. A mutually monogamous relationship is best.
    • Avoid sharing personal hygiene products (such as, toothbrushes, razors).
    • Avoid handling items that may be contaminated with hepatitis-infected blood.
    • Donate your own blood before elective surgery so it can be used if you need a blood transfusion .
    • Avoid getting a tattoo or a body piercing. If you get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure the artist or piercer properly sterilizes the equipment. You might get infected if the tools have someone else's blood on them.
    • If you are a healthcare professional, always follow routine barrier precautions and safely handle needles and other sharp instruments and dispose of them properly.
    • Wear gloves when touching or cleaning up bodily fluids on personal items, such as:
      • Bandages
      • Band-aids
      • Tampons, sanitary pads, diapers
      • Linens
    • Cover open cuts or wounds.
    • Use only sterile needles for drug injections, blood draws, ear piercing, and tattooing.
    • If you are pregnant, have a blood test for hepatitis B . Infants born to mothers with hepatitis B should be treated within 12 hours after birth.
    • When travelling to countries where the risk of hepatitis is higher, follow proper precautions, such as:
      • Only drinking bottled water
      • Not using ice cubes
      • Avoiding certain foods, like shellfish, unpasteurized milk products, and fresh fruits and vegetables

    Practice Good Sanitation

    Good sanitation can prevent the transmission of some forms of hepatitis.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food.
    • Carefully clean all household utensils after use.

    Get a Vaccine, If Recommended

    Ask your doctor if you need a hepatitis vaccine. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B.

    Get Immune Globulin (IG) Injection, If Recommended

    IG, available for hepatitis A and B, is an injection that contains antibodies, which help provide protection. This shot is usually given:
    • Before exposure to the virus, or
    • As soon as possible after exposure to the virus


    Overview of acute viral hepatitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hepatic-and-biliary-disorders/hepatitis/overview-of-acute-viral-hepatitis. Updated June 2010. Accessed January 19, 2011.

    Overview of chronic viral hepatitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hepatic-and-biliary-disorders/hepatitis/overview-of-chronic-hepatitis. Updated July 2010. Accessed January 19, 2011.

    Viral hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis. Updated October 15, 2010. Accessed January 19, 2011.

    What I need to know about Hepatitis B. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/liver-disease/hepatitis-b/Pages/ez.aspx. Accessed January 19, 2011.

    9/25/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Updated recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for use of hepatitis A vaccine in close contacts of newly arriving international adoptees. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009;58:1006.

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