Precautions for a visit with a hepatitis A patient
September 28, 2010 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I have a friend who has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A. She's had the virus for about a week. Is it safe for me to visit her? What precautions should I take.

I should also mention that I had Hep A when I was 13.
posted by Omon Ra to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
Pretty sure that having it gives you lifelong immunity. Wikipedia agrees.
posted by punchtothehead at 8:09 AM on September 28, 2010

Best answer: This CDC information may help as well:

If I have had Hepatitis A in the past, can I get it again?

No. Once you recover from Hepatitis A, you develop antibodies that protect you from the virus for life. An antibody is a substance found in the blood that the body produces in response to a virus. Antibodies protect the body from disease by attaching to the virus and destroying it.
posted by pointystick at 8:41 AM on September 28, 2010

I've had it as well and you are safe. Also, what I was told then was that by the time you are showing symptoms of Hep A you are past the most contagious point. Bring Gatorade.
posted by josher71 at 10:25 AM on September 28, 2010

You can also get innoculated against it though the innoculation only lasts a short while (relatively speaking). When my roommate came down with Hep A I got one. The nurse said it would only last a few months or maybe a couple years.

I'm surprised to read the CDC's blanket declaration that you can never get it again. I used to hear that about chicken pox, too, and it's not true. It turns out that childhood immunizations often don't last forever. Maybe Hep A is different.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:33 AM on September 28, 2010

If you think you need the immunization, you might want to do some research.
Making plans for an overseas trip, I asked my doctor if he recommended an immunization.
He agreed and said it was an injection with a booster (or two).
The health insurer did not exactly agree and I had to pay the $85.
Their take was that it would be unlikely for me to get hepatitis and 'they' would take the risk of paying for treatment if I did.
posted by Drasher at 12:37 PM on September 28, 2010

Best answer: RN - gotta clear up something here about vaccines. I'm answering a lot of immunization stuff lately. :-)

small_ruminant: you didn't get the hepatitis A vaccine. You received a shot of immunoglobulin to bolster your own immune system against an acute threat. You were not vaccinated against hep A.

The hepatitis A vaccine is an entirely different animal - the vaccine gives you lifetime immunity. The hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses; the hepatitis B vaccine needs three doses.

Most childhood vaccines also confer lifetime immunity. The two major exceptions are diphtheria and tetanus. When you get a 'tetanus shot', you're actually receiving both diphtheria and tetanus boosters (a TD booster) together - it's manufactured that way.

Here are those rules: everybody needs a TD booster every ten years. EVERYONE. However, if you have sustained a deep tissue injury - an open fracture, road rash, deep cut or puncture wound, and the like - and it has been five years or longer since your last TD booster, get a booster within 48 hours.

Don't run to your doctor for a TD shot each and every time you get a cut or scrape. There is a high risk of allergy to that vaccine, and if you receive it too often you can develop a high sensitization to the tetanus toxoid in it.

Omonra, you're fine - you are immune to hepatitis A for the rest of your life, although you and I know what a heavy price you paid for that immunity. That doesn't excuse you from good handwashing, especially around people who are not immune. Most hepatitis A cases develop from poor handwashing by either food prep personnel or day care workers who do not wash hands after changing a diaper. So wash your hands and know you're okay. :-)
posted by lambchop1 at 5:18 PM on September 28, 2010

Oops- that's right. Immunoglobulin sounds right.

I'm still suspicious of lifetime immunity to anything but it's only because of the chicken pox experiences my friends have had, and not because of any non-anecdotal data.

Thanks, lampchop1!
posted by small_ruminant at 11:56 AM on September 29, 2010

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