Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease of the liver that can cause severe symptoms, such as fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach or joint pain, tiredness and jaundice. While the disease is rarely fatal, it can cause liver failure, most typically in those ages 50 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is transmitted via consuming contaminated foods or drinks, or through some form of close contact with an infected person.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends children, world travellers, and those at high risk for infection (such as hospital workers, homosexual men, or the elderly) receive the vaccination. Administered at two separate shots delivered a six months apart. A vaccination for both hepatitis A and B can be given to those ages 18 and older; however, this vaccination is administered in three doses over six months.
A hepatitis A vaccination consists of inactive virus; people 1 year old or older can receive the vaccine. It is highly effective. The first dose protects your body (for the short-term) in an estimated two to four weeks. Once you receive the second dose (about six to 12 months after the first), the vaccine should work for at least 20 years. Studies estimate, however, that the vaccine may last over the course of your lifetime. A booster shot is available, however, and you should consult your physician--particularly before travelling to a foreign country-- to determine whether a booster shot is necessary.
The vaccine is given in the thigh for children, and in the upper arm for teenagers or adults. Very few serious side effects have ever been reported, however, it can result in minor effects, such as fever, headache or fatigue.