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Hepatitis A & B Free Vaccine Program

Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are viruses that infect the liver and can cause serious illness. Learn about how to get protection from both viruses from Halton Region's free vaccine program.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an acute infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus.

How Hepatitis A spreads

It is easily transmitted from person to person through contact with the feces of infected persons. Infections from fecal-oral spread can occur by:

  • Eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated
  • Direct person-to-person contact, including oral-anal sexual contact
  • Contact with a contaminated environment

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

Symptoms of hepatitis A usually develop 28 - 30 days after exposure to the virus, although this period can range from 15 - 50 days. Initial symptoms of hepatitis A can include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Signs of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye)

Hepatitis A can be asymptomatic, especially among children younger than 6 years of age.

Hepatitis A Vaccination

The hepatitis A vaccine is publicly funded in Ontario for:

  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • People who use intravenous drugs
  • People with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and C

The hepatitis A vaccine should be considered for other high-risk groups including:

  • Those who use non-injectable illicit drugs
  • Individuals living in communities at high risk for hepatitis A outbreaks
  • Travellers to endemic countries

Hepatitis A Prevention

Good hygiene practices, like washing hands after using the bathroom, after changing diapers and before preparing food, can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. There are around 150 new cases of hepatitis B reported each year in Ontario.

There is no treatment. Most people get well, but about 10% will carry the virus for life and keep infecting other people. Some people will continue to have liver problems for the rest of their lives. Serious liver disease from hepatitis B virus can lead to liver cancer and even death.

How Hepatitis B spreads

Hepatitis B is spread through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. In Canada, it is mainly spread through unprotected sexual contact.

It can also be spread through:

  • Body/ear piercing or tattooing with infected equipment
  • Sharing used needles
  • An infected mother to her child at birth

Symptoms of Hepatitis B

Symptoms of hepatitis B include:

  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pale greyish stools or very dark urine
  • Signs of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye)

Hepatitis B Vaccination

The hepatitis B vaccine is publicly funded in Ontario for:

  • Grade 7 students

It is also covered for those with the following conditions or situations:

  • Children 7 years and under whose families have immigrated from countries of high prevalence for HBV and who may be exposed to HBV carriers through their extended families
  • Infants born to HBV-positive carrier mothers
  • Household and sexual contacts of chronic carriers and acute cases
  • History of a sexually transmitted disease
  • Intravenous drug use
  • Liver disease (chronic), including hepatitis C
  • Awaiting liver transplants
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Multiple sex partners
  • Needle stick injuries in a non-health care setting
  • On renal dialysis or those with diseases requiring frequent receipt of blood products (e.g., haemophilia)