The hepatitis A virus causes a liver disease that can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks, to a severe illness lasting several months. An estimated 25,000 people in the U.S. contract hepatitis A every year — it is usually spread when someone eats food or drinks water that contains the virus, or has close, personal contact with a person infected with the virus.
The CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for some international travelers, and for people with certain medical conditions or other risk factors. While the hepatitis A vaccine is now recommended for all children in the US, this vaccine may not have been available when many adults were children themselves.
Like hepatitis A, hepatitis B is a liver disease, but is caused by a different virus. The hepatitis B virus is spread by contact with the blood, semen, vaginal secretions or other body fluids of an infected person.
People infected with hepatitis B can spread the virus to others, even if they don’t appear sick. Some people who get hepatitis B develop a long-term (chronic) form of infection. This can be very serious and lead to liver damage, liver cancer, or sometimes even death.
The CDC recommends the hepatitis B vaccine for some international travelers and healthcare workers, and for people with certain medical conditions, high risk behaviors, or other risk factors. As with the hepatitis A vaccine, this vaccine is now recommended for all children in the US.