How can viral hepatitis be prevented?

Hepatitis A:

  • This virus is spread by the virus in stool-contaminated food or water, which is then eaten or drunk by someone else (the faeco-oral route). Good sanitation, clean water, hand-washing before meals and the hygienic preparation of food are therefore important to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • A very effective vaccine to prevent Hepatitis A is now available. Hopefully it will be added to the routine programme of immunisation in children.

Hepatitis B:

  • As children usually acquire this virus from their mother who has the virus in her stool, it is important to identify women who have hepatitis before or during pregnancy. Their infants should be given hyperimmune immunoglobulin for hepatitis B after delivery when the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine should also be given.
  • A very effective vaccine to prevent hepatitis B is available and has been included in the routine programme of immunisation in South Africa.

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