Should I get a vaccination for Viral Hepatitis?

Dr. Michell Shiffman of Bon Secours' Liver Institute of Virginia

Dr. Michell Shiffman of Bon Secours' Liver Institute of Virginia

Patients with chronic liver disease and especially cirrhosis are at increased risk to develop severe liver failure and die if they develop acute viral hepatitis A or B. Viral hepatitis A and B are also more severe with increasing age.  It is therefore recommended that all patients with chronic liver disease be vaccinated against viral hepatitis A and B.  A combination vaccine for both viral hepatitis A and B is available. Vaccination is effective and results in the production of protective antibodies in about 97% of otherwise healthy patients. Vaccination appears to be less effective in patients with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

Patients come in contact with hepatitis B virus (HBV) through intimate sexual contact, by sharing injection drugs and other items of personal hygiene with persons who are unaware they are already infected with HBV. The Center for Disease control currently now recommends that all persons be vaccinated for HBV prior to entering school.  Unfortunately, the majority of teenagers and adults did not receive HBV vaccine when they were young and remain at risk for developing HBV if exposed.

HAV is uncommon in the USA but is very common in many counties of the world where Americans vacation. This includes most Carribean Islands, Mexico and may part of Africa and Asia. Americans who travel to these areas of the world should therefore be vaccinated against HAV to prevent them from developing an infection. In addition, all patients with chronic liver disease and especially all patients with cirrhosis should also be vaccinated against HAV.  HAV vaccination is highly effective. Over 98% of persons respond to 2 doses of vaccine administered one month apart.

Vaccination for viral hepatitis A and B is available for all patients and their family members at the Liver Institute of Virginia.

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About Dr.MLShiffman

Dr. Mitchell Shiffman is the Bon Secours expert on liver disease and liver treatments for Virginia. Prior to joining Bon Secours, Dr. Shiffman was a professor of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, VA. He was the Chief of the Hepatology Section and Medical Director of the Liver Transplant Program at the VCU Medical Center from 1989 until 2009. During his 20 years at the VCU Medical Center Dr. Shiffman built and directed one of the most respected and productive hepatology programs in the United States. Dr. Shiffman is recognized as one of the world’s leaders in the field of Hepatology. His particular area of research is viral hepatitis. He has been involved with and/or directed numerous clinical trials to develop new and better treatments for viral hepatitis B and C. Dr. Shiffman is a regular speaker on the treatment of viral hepatitis, the management of various liver disorders, and issues related to liver transplantation at regional, national and international society meetings. He has published over 200 articles in medical journals related to the treatment of liver diseases and has edited two books on this topic. In addition, he has contributed to various HCV educational resources including an HCV educational kit. Dr. Shiffman is also a widely recognized expert consultant to pharmaceutical companies on the treatment of liver disease. Dr. Shiffman holds a Bachelor of Arts from State University of New York at Buffalo, a Master of Science in physiology from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque, N.M. and his Doctor of Medicine from State University of New York Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine and fellowship training in gastroenterology and hepatology at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals in Richmond, VA. Dr. Shiffman is a member of many professional organizations including: the American College of Gastroenterology, American College of Physicians, the American Gastroenterological Association, American Society for the Study of Liver Diseases, American Society of Transplantation, European Association for the Study of the Liver, International Liver Transplantation Society, Richmond Academy of Medicine, Virginia Medical Society and the Virginia Gastrointestinal Society. He was a member of the Board of Trustees with the American College of Gastroenterology from 2003-2009.

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