And one, the adenovirus vaccine, you can only get if you join the military.
Which Vaccines Do You Get When You Join the Military?
But don’t folks get a lot of vaccines when they join the military?
Whether you join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, health personnel will evaluate your immunity status by checking your titers to routine vaccine-preventable diseases. So no, if you were wondering, it doesn’t seem like they just check the vaccine records that you might bring from your pediatrician.
And then once they assess your immunization or immunity status, you will get vaccinated:
upon accession – adenovirus, influenza, meningococcal, MMR, Tdap, and chicken pox
during the first or second half of collective training – hep A, hep B, and polio (if needed) and other vaccines based on risk
So, in addition to getting caught up on all routine vaccines that they might be missing, there are other “military vaccines” that they might need, including:
Anthrax vaccine – only military personnel with extra risk, although some civilians can get this vaccine too
Smallpox vaccine – only military personnel who are high risk and smallpox epidemic response team members, although some civilians can get this vaccine too
Like the recommendations for civilians, other vaccines are mainly given to military personal if they have extra risk based on where they are being deployed.
Cholera – only military personnel with extra risk based on deployment or travel to endemic areas
Japanese encephalitis – only military personnel with extra risk based on deployment or travel to endemic area in Eastern Asia and certain western Pacific Islands
Rabies vaccine – pre-exposure vaccination is only for military personnel with animal control duties or with extra risk based on deployment, including special operations personnel
Typhoid vaccine – only military personnel with extra risk based on deployment or travel to typhoid-endemic areas and other areas with poor sanitation.
Yellow fever vaccine – only military personnel with extra risk based on deployment or travel to yellow-fever-endemic areas in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.
These are the same vaccines that we would get if we traveled to high risk areas.
Military Vaccines in Development
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the military does research on infectious diseases and vaccines.
Members of the military are often put at great risk for known and emerging diseases, like Ebola, Zika, and malaria.
That’s why some vaccines might have been given as an investigational new drug in special situations, typically when “individuals who have a high occupational risk – laboratory workers, facilities inspectors, vaccine manufacturers and certain military response teams.”
These vaccines, which were initially developed at US Army labs, are no longer being produced, but have included:
Argentine hemorrhagic fever (Junin virus) vaccine
Chikungunya fever vaccine
Eastern equine encephalitis vaccine
Q fever vaccine
Rift Valley fever vaccine
Venezuelan equine encephalitis vaccine
Western equine encephalitis vaccine
Today, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) “is a leader in global efforts against the world’s most pervasive and high impact infectious diseases.”
WRAIR is working on vaccines for HIV, Ebola, MERS, and Zika.
What to Know About Military Vaccines
You will need some extra vaccines when you enlist in the military, but how many will depend on if you are up-to-date when you join and your area of responsibility. So there is no one-size-fits-all military immunization schedule.
It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd. You don’t get vaccinated and you don’t vaccinate your kids, and instead, you simply rely on the fact that everyone else around you is vaccinated to protect you from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Of course, this is a terrible strategy, as we are seeing with the increase in cases of measles and pertussis, etc. It is much better to learn about the importance and safety of vaccines, get fully vaccinated, and stop these outbreaks.
But as they continue to tell you that vaccines don’t work, how about asking what they would do in these ten high-risk situations?
Amazingly, some folks continue to try and justify skipping vaccines and accept the risk of disease, even when that risk is much higher than usual and they could be putting their child’s life in immediate danger!
How will you do with our quiz?
Would you choose to vaccinate in these situations?
1. Baby born to mother with hepatitis B.
You are pregnant and have chronic hepatitis B (positive for both HBsAg and HBeAg). Should your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?
Many anti-vaccine experts tell parents to skip their baby’s hepatitis B shot, saying it is dangerous, not necessary, or doesn’t work (typical anti-vax myths and misinformation).
However, it is well known that:
from 10 (HBeAg negative) to 90% (HBeAg positive) of infants who are born to a mother with chronic hepatitis B will become infected
90% of infants who get hepatitis B from their mother at birth develop chronic infections
25% of people with chronic hepatitis B infections die from liver failure and liver cancer
use of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine series greatly decreases a newborn’s risk of developing a hepatitis B infection (perinatal transmission of hepatitis B), especially if HBIG and the first hepatitis B shot is given within 12 hours of the baby being born
Would your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?
2. Your child is bitten by a rabid dog.
Your toddler is bitten by a dog that is almost certainly rabid. Several wild animals in the area have been found to be rabid recently and the usual playful and well-mannered dog was acting strangely and died a few hours later. The dog was not vaccinated against rabies and unfortunately, the owners, fearing they would get in trouble, disappeared with the dead dog, so it can’t be quarantined. Should your child get a rabies shot?
Although now uncommon in dogs, rabies still occurs in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. These animals can then expose and infect unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets, etc.
To help prevent rabies, which is not usually treatable, in addition to immediately cleaning the wound, people should get human rabies immune globulin (RIG) and rabies vaccine.
The rabies vaccine is given as a series of four doses on the day of exposure to the animal with suspected rabies and then again on days 3, 7, and 14.
Although rare in the United States, at least 1 to 3 people do still die of rabies each year. The rabies vaccine series and rabies immune globulin are preventative, however, without them, rabies is almost always fatal once you develop symptoms. A few people have survived with a new treatment, the Milwaukee protocol, without getting rabies shots, but many more have failed the treatment and have died.
Although the first MMR vaccine is routinely given when children are 12 months old, it is now recommended that infants get vaccinated as early as age six months if they will be traveling out of the country.
Since the endemic spread of measles was stopped in 2000, almost all cases are now linked to unvaccinated travelers, some of whom start very large outbreaks that are hard to contain.
Would you both get vaccinated before making the trip?
4. Tetanus shot.
Your unvaccinated teen gets a very deep puncture wound while doing yard work. A few hours later, your neighbor comes by to give you an update on his wife who has been in the hospital all week. She has been diagnosed with tetanus. She had gotten sick after going yard work in the same area and has been moved to the ICU. Do you get him a tetanus shot?
Most children get vaccinated against tetanus when they receive the 4 dose primary DTaP series, the DTaP booster at age 4-6 years, and the Tdap booster at age 11-12 years.
Unlike most other vaccine-preventable diseases, tetanus is not contagious. The spores of tetanus bacteria (Clostridium tetani) are instead found in the soil and in the intestines and feces of many animals, including dogs, cats, and horses, etc.
Although the tetanus spores are common in soil, they need low oxygen conditions to germinate. That’s why you aren’t at risk for tetanus every time your hands get dirty. A puncture wound creates the perfect conditions for tetanus though, especially a deep wound, as it will be hard to clean out the tiny tetanus spores, and there won’t be much oxygen at the inner parts of the wound.
These types of deep wounds that are associated with tetanus infections might including stepping on a nail, getting poked by a splinter or thorn, and animal bites, etc. Keep in mind that some of these things, like a cat bite, might put you at risk because you simply had dirt/tetanus spores on your skin, which get pushed deep into the wound when the cat bites you.
Symptoms of tetanus typically develop after about 8 days and might include classic lockjaw, neck stiffness, trouble swallowing, muscle spasms, and difficulty breathing. Even with treatment, tetanus is fatal in about 11% of people and recovery takes months.
Would you get your teen a tetanus shot?
5. Cocooning to protect baby from pertussis.
Both of your unvaccinated teens go to school with a personal belief vaccine exemption. You are due in a few months and are a little concerned about the new baby because there have been outbreaks of pertussis in the community, especially at their highschool. Should everyone in the family get a Tdap shot?
Pertussis, or whooping cough, classically causes a cough that can last for weeks to months.
While often mild in teens and adults, pertussis can be life-threatening in newborns and infants. In fact, it is young children who often develop the classic high-pitched whooping sound as they try to breath after a long coughing fit.
In a recent outbreak of pertussis in California, 10 infants died. Almost all were less than 2 months old.
Since infants aren’t protected until they get at least three doses of a pertussis vaccine, usually at age 6 months, experts recommend a cocooning strategy to protect newborns and young infants from pertussis. With cocooning, all children, teens, and adults who will be around the baby are vaccinated against pertussis (and other vaccine-preventable diseases), so that they can’t catch pertussis and bring it home.
There is even evidence that a pregnancy dose of Tdap can help protect infants even more than waiting until after the baby is born to get a Tdap shot.
Would everyone in your family get a Tdap shot?
6. Nephew is getting chemotherapy.
Your nephew was just diagnosed with leukemia and is going to start chemotherapy. Your kids have never been vaccinated against chicken pox and haven’t had the disease either. Your brother asks that you get them vaccinated, since they are around their cousin very often and he doesn’t want to put him at risk.
Do you get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?
Kids with cancer who are getting chemotherapy become very vulnerable to most vaccine-preventable diseases, whether it is measles, flu, or chicken pox.
According to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, “We want to create a ‘protective cocoon’ of immunized persons surrounding patients with primary immunodeficiency diseases so that they have less chance of being exposed to a potentially serious infection like influenza.”
Would your get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?
7. Outbreak of meningococcemia at your kid’s college.
Background information: Neisseria meningitidis is a bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis and sepsis (meningococcemia).
Depending on the type, it can occur either in teens and young adults (serogroups B, C, and Y) or infants (serogroup B).
Although not nearly as common as some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles or pertussis, it is one of the more deadly. Meningococcemia is fatal in up to 40% of cases and up to 20% of children and teens who survive a meningococcal infection might have hearing loss, loss of one or more limbs, or neurologic damage.
Meningococcal vaccines are available (Menactra and Menveo) and routinely given to older children and teens to help prevent meningococcal infections (serogroups A, C, Y and W-135). Other vaccines, Bexasero and Trumenba, protect against serogroup B and are recommended for high risk kids and anyone else who wants to decrease their risk of getting Men B disease.
Would you encourage her to get vaccinated against meningococcemia?
8. Cochlear implants.
Your preschooler has just received cochlear implants. Should he get the Prevnar and Pneumovax vaccines?
Cochlear implants can put your child at increased risk for bacterial meningitis caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (pneumococcus).
Your child is going to have his spleen removed to prevent complications of hereditary spherocytosis. Should he get the meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccines first?
Without a spleen, kids are at risk for many bacterial infections, including severe infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.
In addition to their routine vaccines, kids with asplenia might need Menveo or Menactra, Bexsero or Trumenba (Men B), and Pneumovax 23.
Would your child get these vaccines that are recommended for kids with asplenia?
Ebola is returning, but this time an experimental vaccine is available.
There were nearly 30,000 cases and just over 11,000 deaths during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
You are in an area that is seeing an increasing number of Ebola cases and there is still no treatment for this deadly disease. An experimental vaccine is being offered.
Do you get the vaccine?
How Anti-Vaccine Are You?
It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd – seemingly protected by all of the vaccinated people around you.
While the oral polio vaccine is indeed associated with shedding and vaccine associated disease, that doesn’t happen with MMR. Experts don’t even recommend any restrictions for use of the MMR vaccine for household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed. And yes, your kids can even visit a cancer patient if they just had their MMR, as long as they don’t have RSV, the flu, or some other contagious disease.
What about the fact that a study once found measles virus RNA in the urine of of kids who had recently been vaccinated? Doesn’t that mean that they were shedding the vaccine virus?
No. It doesn’t.
To be considered shedding, those measles virus RNA particles in their urine would have to be contagious. Now, measles is spread by respiratory secretions. So how are measles virus RNA particles in urine going to become airborne and get someone else sick?
But what about that case in Canada? Anti-vaccine folks like to bring this up when they talk about shedding. In 2013, there was a case of vaccine-associated measles. That proves that the vaccine sheds, right?
“Of note, only one case report of transmission from vaccine-associated measles has been identified.”
Murti et al. on Case of vaccine-associated measles five weeks post-immunisation, British Columbia, Canada, October 2013
That child got measles about 5 weeks after she was vaccinated in the middle of a measles outbreak. Because she had no links to the other cases and she tested positive for vaccine-strain measles, it is thought that she had MMR vaccine-associated measles, which is extremely rare.
Shedding Light on Measles Outbreaks in Daycare
MMR shedding is not causing outbreaks of measles – or rubella and mumps, for that matter.
If shedding from the MMR, by any method, got kids sick, then why aren’t there even more cases of measles?
When a case of measles does pop up though, it isn’t because of shedding, it is typically because someone who wasn’t vaccinated traveled out of the country, got measles, and brought it back home, exposing others.
What to Know About MMR and Shedding
Measles outbreaks are not caused by shedding from the MMR vaccine.
Breaking News – There are now six cases of measles in the San Francisco Bay Area, all unvaccinated, in an ongoing outbreak that has also spread to Nevada.
Is anyone surprised that a student in California has measles?
Actually, a lot of folks are probably surprised. After all, didn’t lawmakers in California recently pass a law that mandated everyone in school get vaccinated?
Well yeah, but SB277 didn’t apply to all students. Only new students and those transitioning to a new grade span (for example, moving from K-6th to 7th grade) have to meet the new minimum immunization requirements. That means it will take more than a few years until all of the kids already in school whose parents have skipped or delayed any vaccines have gotten caught up or have graduated.
When you think of measles and California, most people probably think of the 2015 Disneyland outbreak, which was linked to:
134 cases in California, including at least 50 cases without a known source
13 cases in Arizona, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon
1 case in Mexico
159 cases in Canada
The Disneyland outbreak included a lot of intentionally unvaccinated kids and kept unvaccinated kids from school, closed daycare centers, and led to hospitalizations of more than a few people.
“The ongoing measles outbreak linked to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, shines a glaring spotlight on our nation’s growing antivaccination movement and the prevalence of vaccination-hesitant parents.”
Majumder et al. on Substandard Vaccination Compliance and the 2015 Measles Outbreak
The Disneyland outbreak wasn’t the first big measles outbreak in California in recent years though.
No, I’m not talking about the really big outbreaks from the pre-vaccine era. Or even the outbreaks in the late 1980s, just before we started giving an MMR booster. Believe it or not, 75 people died between 1988 and 1990 with measles – just in California.
More recently, there was the 2008 outbreak in San Diego that was triggered by an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy who had traveled to Switzerland with his family.
He returned with measles and got at least 10 other unvaccinated children sick, including four infants who were too young to be vaccinated and were unknowingly exposed at their pediatrician’s office.
“Almost 100 children (including babies who were too young for the MMR vaccine) were quarantined or hospitalized after they were exposed at the pediatrician’s office, Whole Foods or day care. In all, 11 children caught the measles. As it turns out, the boy who spread measles is a patient of Dr. Bob Sears…”
OC’s Dr. Bob Sears discusses measles outbreak on NPR
One of those infants was hospitalized when his fever spiked to 106 degrees and he wouldn’t eat or drink.
“We spent 3 days in the hospital fearing we might lose our baby boy. He couldn’t drink or eat, so he was on an IV, and for a while he seemed to be wasting away. When he began to be able to drink again we got to take him home. But the doctors told us to expect the disease to continue to run its course, including high fever—which did spike as high as 106 degrees. We spent a week waking at all hours to stay on schedule with fever reducing medications and soothing him with damp wash cloths. Also, as instructed, we watched closely for signs of lethargy or non-responsiveness. If we’d seen that, we’d have gone back to the hospital immediately.”
Megan Campbell on 106 Degrees: A True Story
Measles cases also began rising in 2011, as unvaccinated travelers brought measles back from trips to Europe, Asia, and Africa, where there were large outbreaks. There were 31 measles cases in California in 2011.
While 31 cases might not seem like much, consider that between 2001 through 2006, there were just 66 cases in California, with only 4 cases in 2005!
Will we ever get to a year with just 4 cases in California again?
It didn’t happen in 2017.
Last year started with a big outbreak in Los Angeles County that grew to include at least 24 cases and a few surrounding counties. There was also a case involving an unvaccinated student at Laguna Beach High in Orange County which led to the quarantine of at least 6 unvaccinated students.
The Latest California Measles Outbreak
What kind of a measles year will we see in 2018 in California?
It started when an unvaccinated student returned from a trip to Europe and developed measles, exposing others between February 28 through March 2 in Santa Clara County at a school in Campbell and at the Westgate Center food court in San Jose.
With an average incubation period of 10 to 12 days, that means exposed people might begin to show symptoms by March 14. Keep in mind that the incubation period can be as long as 21 days though, so be on the watch for measles symptoms until at least March 23 if you could have been exposed.
Since we don’t know when the new cases began to show symptoms, it is hard to know how much longer we can expect to see new cases. Hopefully these folks were already in quarantine and didn’t expose anyone else.
Would you recognize measles?
It is important to understand that the first symptoms of measles don’t include a rash. Instead, you get a high fever, runny nose, cough, and pink eye. The measles rash comes a few days later, as the high fever continues.
It is also important to understand the the MMR vaccine is safe and works very well to prevent measles.
This exposure is a great reminder that vaccines are necessary and that you shouldn’t wait for your kids to get exposed to get them caught up and vaccinated and protected.
What to Know About Measles Outbreaks in California
A recent outbreak of measles in California, this time in Santa Clara County, is a good reminder that the MMR vaccine is necessary to keep your kids protected.
In the United States, it was actually eliminated by controlling the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread the yellow fever virus before the vaccine was even developed. These control efforts were also done in Cuba, Panama, and Ecuador, etc., places where yellow fever was common and led to outbreaks in the United States.
Why Haven’t We Eradicated Yellow Fever?
So why is yellow fever still a problem if we can control the the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry the yellow fever virus?
“Mosquitoes breed in tropical rainforests, humid, and semi-humid environments, as well as around bodies of still water in and close to human habitations in urban settings. Increased contact between humans and infected mosquitoes, particularly in urban areas where people have not been vaccinated for yellow fever, can create epidemics.”
Yellow fever: Questions and Answers
It’s because we can control the mosquitoes in urban areas, in and around cities. You can’t really control or eliminate mosquitoes in tropical rain forest regions, which is why it is difficult to eradicate yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever, and other mosquito borne diseases.
But we have a vaccine, don’t we?
“Eradication of yellow fever is not feasible since we are unable to control the virus in the natural animal hosts.”
Yellow fever: Questions and Answers
Unfortunately, we aren’t the only ones who can become infected with yellow fever. Monkeys get infected with the yellow fever virus in rain forests, infect Haemagogus and Sabethes mosquitoes, which bite people in those areas.
“Urban transmission of yellow fever virus occurs when the virus is spread from human to human by the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.”
Yellow fever – Brazil
That likely means that yellow fever will never be completely eradicated, unlike small pox.
Yellow Fever Vaccines Myths
But just because yellow fever can’t be eradicated doesn’t mean that it can’t be eliminated.
A single dose of the yellow fever vaccine is safe and provides life-long protection for 99% of people.
“Vaccination is the most powerful known measure for yellow fever prevention: a single dose can provide life-long immunity at a cost of approximately US$1.”
WHO on Eliminating Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) Strategy: Meeting demand for yellow fever vaccines
And as cases of yellow fever increase in some countries, like Brazil, getting more people vaccinated is the only way to stop this deadly disease.
You should not skip getting the yellow fever vaccine if you are traveling to an area where yellow fever is endemic, including many parts of areas of Africa and South America.
While you are most at risk during the rainy season, especially during outbreaks, it is also possible to get yellow fever during the dry season.
Yellow fever is a serious, life-threatening disease.
There is no cure for yellow fever.
While serious side effects to the yellow fever vaccine have been reported, including anaphylaxis, yellow fever vaccine-associated neurologic disease (YEL-AND), and yellow fever vaccine-associated viscerotropic disease (YEL-AVD), they are very rare.
The yellow fever vaccine is a live virus vaccine, but shedding is not an issue. Unless at a high risk of exposure, getting the yellow fever vaccine is usually not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding though.
It is not usually necessary to get a booster dose of the yellow fever vaccine.
Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination if you have traveled from a country where there is still a risk of getting yellow fever, so that you don’t import yellow fever into their country.
As yellow fever cases are on the rise in Brazil, with an associated increase in travel associated cases, it is important that everyone understand that vaccines are safe and necessary.
What to Know About Yellow Fever Vaccine Myths
Yellow fever cases are increasing and so are anti-vaccine myths about the yellow fever vaccine, which are keeping some folks from getting vaccinated and protected, even as they are threatened by a potential outbreak.
Unlike most other vaccine-preventable diseases though, unless you are at high risk for getting rabies, you don’t typically get the rabies vaccine unless you have already been exposed to rabies.
How does one get exposed to rabies?
Now that most people get their pets vaccinated against rabies, these exposures typically come from wild animals, including:
While any mammal can be susceptible to rabies, small mammals, including squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares, rarely get rabies and aren’t usually thought to be a risk for humans.
Your other pets, including dogs, cats, and ferrets, are though. They should be vaccinated against rabies. As should other domestic animals, including cows, goats, sheep, and horses.
It is also important to teach your kids to avoid wild animals. While most kids won’t go out of their way to pet a coyote, they might try to feed a racoon or skunk, and they might pick up a bat they find on the ground.
Kids should also avoid cats and dogs that they don’t know. Your kids should not just walk up and pet unfamiliar dogs and cats.
What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Rabies
Unfortunately, you won’t always know if an animal has rabies, although an animal acting strangely can be a tip off that they might have rabies.
That bat your kids found on the ground could definitely have rabies, especially if they found it during the day. And the bat doesn’t even have to obviously bite your child. For example, if you find a sick or dead bat in your child’s room in the morning when he wakes up, you should consider that a possible exposure to rabies.
Many other exposures happen when kids are bitten by stray cats or dogs.
What do you do?
According to the CDC, if your child is bitten by any animal or has any possible exposure to rabies, you should:
immediately wash the wound well with soap and water, also using a povidone-iodine solution (Betadine Antiseptic Solution) to irrigate the wound if it is available
see a healthcare provider
call your local animal control for help in capturing the animal for observation or rabies testing
Animal control can also help in verifying a pet’s rabies vaccination status if your child was bitten by a neighborhood cat or dog.
“A healthy domestic dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person should be confined and observed for 10 days. Those that remain alive and healthy 10 days after a bite would not have been shedding rabies virus in their saliva and would not have been infectious at the time of the bite.”
CDC on Human Rabies Prevention — United States, 2008
In general, unless they already appear rabid, dogs, cats, and ferrets can be quarantined and observed for 10 days to see if they develop signs of rabies before your child begins post-exposure prophylaxis.
Other animals, including skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bats should be considered rabid, with a quick start of post-exposure prophylaxis, unless the animal can be quickly tested (brain material) for rabies. And of course, you would be more considered about rabies if the animal was acting strangely, looked sick, or if it was an unprovoked attack.
What if you can’t find or capture the animal?
Depending on the circumstances, your pediatrician, with the help of your local or state health department, can determine if your child needs rabies post-exposure prophylaxis with rabies immune globulin and a 4 dose series of the rabies vaccine over 2 weeks.
“The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the 1990’s. Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100% successful.”
CDC on Rabies in the U.S.
About 40,000 to 50,000 people in the United States get rabies post-exposure prophylaxis each year. That works to keep the number of rabies cases and rabies deaths in people very low.
And it is not probably not at the top of your list of things to think about at a time like this, but animal bites can also be a risk for tetanus. Make sure your child doesn’t need a tetanus shot.
What to Know About Getting Exposed to Rabies
Keep your kids safe from rabies by vaccinating your pets and teaching them to avoid wild animals, but also know what to do if your child is exposed to rabies.
Now all toddlers begin to get a two dose hepatitis A vaccine series beginning when they are 1 to 2 years old, with 6 to 18 months between the doses.
Unfortunately, unlike many other vaccines, there was never a catch-up plan for those who were unvaccinated, so some teens and many adults are still not vaccinated and still not protected against hepatitis A infections.
Getting Exposed to Hepatitis A
How do you get hepatitis A?
“The hepatitis A virus is able to survive outside the body for months. High temperatures, such as boiling or cooking food or liquids for at least 1 minute at 185°F (85°C), kill the virus, although freezing temperatures do not.”
CDC on Hepatitis A Questions and Answers
Unlike hepatitis B, which is spread through blood and body fluids, people who are infected with hepatitis A shed the virus in their stool.
So you can get infected by having close contact with someone who has hepatitis A or by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
How do you know if you have been exposed?
Exposures are most common in local common-source outbreaks caused by sick food handlers at restaurants and grocery stores and multi-state hepatitis A outbreaks caused by contaminated foods. These types of exposures are usually announced by your local or state health department.
Other exposures occur if you are living with someone who develops hepatitis A or travel to a country where hepatitis A is still common.
What to Do If Your Unvaccinated Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis A
If your unvaccinated child is exposed to hepatitis A, you should talk to your pediatrician or local health department about starting post-exposure prophylaxis as soon as possible and not longer than 14 days, including either:
the first dose of hepatitis A vaccine, with plans to get the second dose of vaccine in 6 months, or
a dose of immune globulin (provides a passive transfer of antibodies)
In general, getting the hepatitis A vaccine is preferred over getting immune globulin for most healthy people between 12 months and 40 years of age. For infants less than 12 months (too young to be vaccinated) and unvaccinated adults over age 40 years, immune globulin is preferred after an exposure to hepatitis A.
Immune globulin is also preferred for anyone who is immunocompromised or chronic liver disease.
What if it has been more than 14 days since the exposure?
While it is likely too late for immune globulin, your unvaccinated child should still likely get a dose of hepatitis A vaccine to protect against future exposures. And watch carefully over the next 15 to 50 days (the incubation period) for symptoms of hepatitis A, which can include jaundice, fever, and vomiting, etc. Many children don’t have symptoms though, so your child could develop hepatitis A, and be contagious and expose others without your even knowing it.
If post-exposure vaccination works, can’t you just wait until your child is exposed to get vaccinated? That might work – if you could be sure about each and every exposure that your child will ever have. Since that’s not possible, don’t delay getting vaccinated and put your child at risk of getting hepatitis A.
What to Do If Your Vaccinated Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis A
One dose provide 95% protection against hepatitis A infections and the second dose boosts the efficacy rate up to 99%.
If your child is partially vaccinated, with just one dose and has been exposed to hepatitis A, get the second dose if it has been at least six months since he was vaccinated. Otherwise, talk to your pediatrician or local health department, but your child is likely considered protected.
What to Know About Getting Exposed to Hepatitis A
Learn what to do if your child is exposed to hepatitis A, especially if they aren’t already vaccinated and protected.