Hepatitis is a contagious disease that is preventable. Basic preventive principles include avoiding contact with other people’s blood or bodily fluids and practicing good sanitation. In addition, vaccines are available to prevent some types of hepatitis. They are given to people at high risk of contracting the disease.

Avoid Contact With Blood and Bodily Fluids

Infected blood and bodily fluids can spread hepatitis. To avoid contact:

  • Do not inject illicit drugs , especially with shared needles. Seek help to stop using drugs.
  • Do not have sex with partners who have hepatitis or other sexually transmitted diseases .
  • Practice safe sex (use latex condoms ) or abstain from sex.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners. A mutually monogamous relationship is best.
  • Avoid sharing personal hygiene products (eg, toothbrushes, razors).
  • Avoid handling items that may be contaminated with hepatitis-infected blood.
  • Donate your own blood before elective surgery so it can be used if you need a blood transfusion.
  • It is best that you avoid tattoos or body piercing. If you get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure the artist or piercer properly sterilizes the equipment. You might get infected if the tools have someone else's blood on them.
  • Healthcare professionals should always follow routine barrier precautions and safely handle needles and other sharp instruments and dispose of them properly.
  • Wear gloves when touching or cleaning up bodily fluids on personal items, such as:
    • Bandages
    • Band-aids
    • Tampons, sanitary pads, diapers
    • Linens
  • Cover open cuts or wounds.
  • Use only sterile needles for drug injections, blood draws , ear piercing, and tattooing.
  • If you are pregnant, have a blood test for hepatitis B . Infants born to mothers with hepatitis B should be treated within 12 hours after birth.
  • When travelling to countries where the risk of hepatitis is higher , follow proper precautions, such as:
    • Drinking bottled water only
    • Not using ice cubes
    • Avoiding certain foods, like shellfish, unpasteurized milk products, and fresh fruits and vegetables

Practice Good Sanitation

Good sanitation can prevent the transmission of some forms of hepatitis.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food.
  • Carefully clean all household utensils after use.

Get a Vaccine, If Recommended

If you are in a high risk group, ask your doctor about getting a hepatitis vaccine. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B .

  • Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children aged 12 months. The following people should also get vaccinated:
    • Children age 12 months or greater in high-risk areas
    • People traveling to areas where hepatitis A is prevalent
    • People who engage in anal sex
    • Drug users
    • People with chronic liver disease
    • People with blood-clotting disorders, like hemophilia
    • Children who live in areas where hepatitis A is prevalent
    • People who will have close contact with an adopted child from a medium- or high-risk area
  • Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 18 and younger and adults over the age of 18 who are at risk. Adults who are at risk include:
    • People who have had more than one sex partner in six months
    • Men who have sex with other men
    • Sex partners of infected people
    • People who inject illegal drugs
    • Healthcare and public safety workers who might be exposed to HBV-infected blood or body fluids
    • Those living with people with chronic HBV infection
    • People receiving dialysis

Talk to your doctor to find out if you should receive the vaccines.

Get Immune Globulin (IG) Injection, If Recommended

IG, available for hepatitis A and B, is an injection that contains antibodies, which help provide protection. This shot is usually given:

  • Before exposure to the virus, or
  • As soon as possible after exposure to the virus