In order to prevent hepatitis A, it pays to observe cleanliness. Don't just eat in any place nor buy food from street vendors. Cook food properly and wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.

Have your water supply checked to make sure that it is not contaminated. If it is, boil it for a few minutes to eliminate whatever disease-causing microorganisms are present. Avoid sharing food and drinks with someone else and avoid intimate contact with someone you don't know very well.

If you already had hepatitis A, there's no need to worry. You're immune to the disease and won't be re-infected. But if you have yet to experience the disease, take note of the above measures.

Increased standards of personal hygiene have lowered the incidence of hepatitis A in many industrialized countries. But personal cleanliness alone is not the answer.

That's because you can also acquire hepatitis A if you travel to places where sanitation is poor or questionable. The risk, therefore, is great for non-immune travelers who go to areas where hepatitis A is prevalent.

"Even in highly-developed, low hepatitis A virus (HAV) endemicity populations who have all the advantages of good public health systems, high risk groups continue to exist. Those working in 'closed' environments, including prisons and institutions for the mentally and physically handicapped, health and child care personnel and the armed forces all require protection from HAV - as do the families and close contacts of those already infected," researchers said.

The problem was solved in the 1940s when researchers found that passive immunization or injecting gamma globulin into non-immune subjects protected them from HAV. Gamma globulin is a disease-fighting substance taken from the blood of patients who have developed natural immunity to hepatitis A. Once injected, it offers immediate protection to the patient and may make the infection less troublesome in those who have been exposed to the virus.

"I'm often asked by someone who has been exposed to hepatitis A whether they need a protective 'shot.' If the contact has been really close (like living in the same household, or working together at adjacent desks), I recommend gamma globulin by injection as soon as possible. This enhances immunity temporarily and may either prevent the infection or render it less severe," according to Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld of the New York Hospital Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center in “The Best Treatment.”

The protection offered by gamma globulin, however, is only temporary. It lasts for a few weeks to two months, making it a less than an ideal preventive measure against hepatitis A. For those who travel frequently to high HAV endemicity areas, additional shots are required which can hurt both your arm and your wallet.

"The short-term nature of the protection offered by (gamma globulin) has led to serious compliance problems, particularly among non-immune travelers and long-term visitors to higher HAV endemicity areas, Many require repeated injections," researchers revealed.

A breakthrough in hepatitis A research occurred when two strains of HAV were made into inactivated vaccines. These two vaccines have since been routinely used for the long-term prevention of hepatitis A.

“The Food and Drug Administration has approved two vaccines for hepatitis A. These vaccines - Havrix and Vaqta - contain inactivated forms of hepatitis A virus and are safe for children older than 2 years as well as for most adults, including those with compromised immune systems. It takes four weeks for the vaccine to take effect, and you'll need to get a booster shot in six to 12 months. The vaccine causes only minor side effects, although allergic reactions can occur,” said the Mayo Clinic.

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Author's Bio: 

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine