Hepatitis A Prevention Through Vaccination
Certainly, it would be great if there were a vaccine available for every disease in the world. Like with most diseases, most sexually transmitted diseases also do not have vaccines available for them. The idea of having STD vaccines is, in itself, controversial because people worry that it will lead to more promiscuity. The best way to prevent an STD is to abstain from sexual contact, or to have sexual contact in a consistently protected way. A vaccine, therefore, could create a situation where people are less careful. However, doctors are still working to create vaccines for STDs, and one disease that does have an active vaccine is Hepatitis A.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A creates an infection in the liver. It does not result in chronic infection or chronic liver disease, but can occur in older people. Studies show that somewhere around 33% of the U.S. population has evidence of the infection. Hepatitis A can be spread through sexual contact, through injection and non-injection drugs and through a community-wide outbreak. Approximately 50% of people with Hepatitis A do not have a clearly identifiable source for their infection.
How Long Are People Infected?
Unlike with some other STDS, Hepatitis A is only infectious for a short period of time. However, doctors and researchers have found that outbreaks occur even when measures are taken to teach about safe sex and to encourage good personal hygiene. For this reason, a vaccine could be very helpful for Hepatitis A outbreaks and for prevention.
Vaccines and Prevention
There are two products are the market today that can prevent Hepatitis A. There is a vaccine and an immune globulin (IG). Hepatitis A vaccines have been available in the United States since 1995 for anyone over the age of two. They are given as two separate doses and they create protective antibodies in almost all adults. Researchers have shown that one month after the first dose, 94-100% of adults have protective antibody levels. After the second dose, 100% of adults have this protection.
The other vaccine is IG, a sterile solution that is given to patients after exposure to Hepatitis A. When it's given before exposure, or within two weeks after exposure to Hepatitis A, it is found to be 85% effective or more in preventing the disease.
Who Should Get Vaccinated?
There are three main groups of people for whom the vaccine is encouraged. These groups include people with many sexual partners, those who have already had STDs, illegal drug users and people with chronic liver disease. In addition, if anyone lives in an area where there have been previous outbreaks, or they feel that they are at high risk of exposure, then they should also talk to a doctor about the vaccine.
The more that the public is aware of various diseases like Hepatitis A, and the more that they are educated about vaccines and other methods of prevention, the healthier we will all be!