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What is hepatitis A infection?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. Symptoms usually include an abrupt onset of fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and abdominal pain, followed by jaundice or yellowing of the skin.
How is hepatitis A spread?
Hepatitis A is spread from person to person by putting anything in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A (also known as the “fecal-oral” route).
It can also be spread indirectly through ingestion of contaminated food or water.
Those in close contact with confirmed cases of hepatitis A are more likely to contract the virus. Close contacts include:
- Those living in the same household as the case
- Persons who are close non-household contacts, such as sexual partners or drug sharing partners
- Contacts who are food handlers
- Persons who ate potentially contaminated food (or drinks) prepared or handled by the case
- Day care and institutional attendees or employees
How does Immune Globulin (IG) protect against hepatitis A infection?
IG can be used to provide protection against hepatitis A infection in someone who cannot get the hepatitis A vaccine and are not already immune to hepatitis A.
Immune Globulin (IG) is a sterile solution of naturally produced antibodies taken from donated human blood. Antibodies are proteins that a person's immune system makes to fight germs. IG is made by concentrating these antibodies down to a small amount. It is injected into a muscle to provide almost immediate, short-term protection against certain illnesses. It can also help make certain illnesses less severe.
When is Immune Globulin given?
Immune Globulin is given preferably within 7 days of exposure to an infectious case of hepatitis A, but can be given up to 14 days after exposure.
How is Immune Globulin given?
IG is given by injection (needle) in the muscle. For adults, the injection is generally given into the muscle in the upper arm. For children under 1 year of age, it is given in the thigh muscle.
Is Immune Globulin safe?
Yes. Human IG preparations are among the safest blood-derived products available. Plasma found to be positive for hepatitis B surface antigen, HIV antibody or hepatitis C is excluded from donor pools. There are no known reports of transmission of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, West Nile virus, new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease or other infectious agents after the IG injection. IG is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, and for those who have a weakened immune system.
Who can receive Immune Globulin?
People who cannot get the hepatitis A vaccine and who are not already immune to hepatitis A can receive IG; including:
- Children under 12 months of age
- Pregnant women
- Those with a very weak immune system such as someone with AIDS, certain cancers, absent or dysfunctional spleen, or on certain medications such as chemotherapy or post-transplant medications
- Those with chronic liver disease
- Those with a contraindication to the hepatitis A vaccine and are considered a close contact of an infectious case of hepatitis A
Who should not get Immune Globulin?
You should not get IG if:
- you have a fever and have a illness more serious than a cold
- you have a history of shock-like allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of IG or any of its components. IG components are thimerosal (a mercury preservative), a glycine stabilizer, and sodium carbonate or acetic acid
- you have a very low platelet count or other blood clotting disorder
- you have isolated immunoglobulin A (IgA) deficiency
Does Immune Globulin cause any side effects?
The most common side effects include soreness, redness and stiffness of muscles around the injection site, lasting for several hours. Mild fever or feeling generally unwell may also occur. Other less common symptoms include; flushing, headache, chills and nausea.
With any vaccine or drug there is a possibility of a shock-like allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). This can cause hives, wheezy breathing, or swelling of some part of the body. If this happens, particularly swelling around the throat, see a health care provider immediately.
If other serious symptoms develop after the injection, please get immediate medical care. Report serious reactions to a local public health nurse or a family doctor.
What about Immune Globulin and vaccinations?
Persons who were vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, or chickenpox two weeks or less before receiving IG should have that vaccination repeated. Persons getting IG should postpone vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella for at least 3 months or chickenpox for at least 5 months. Talk to a health care provider about the appropriate timing of vaccinations and receiving IG.
Call the Immunization Information Line at 416-392-1250, or speak with a health care provider for more information on Immune Globulin.
Last updated March 2011