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Immunoglobulin (IG) for Hepatitis A

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
immune serum globulinGamaSTAN, Gammar-P

The hepatitis A IG is given by injection into a muscle (intramuscular injection).

How It Works

Immunoglobulin (IG) contains antibodies that destroy the hepatitis A virus (HAV), preventing infection.

Why It Is Used

IG should be given to unvaccinated people at risk of infection with HAV, including:

  • Household and sexual contacts of people diagnosed with hepatitis A.
  • Travelers visiting foreign countries where hepatitis A is a known problem or where sanitary conditions are questionable. More doses of IG are needed every 3 to 5 months. If you frequently travel to or plan to stay for longer than 3 months in a country where hepatitis A is a problem, it is recommended that you receive the hepatitis A vaccine (What is a PDF document?).
  • All staff and residents of child care centers, hospitals, residences for the developmentally disabled, prisons, or food service settings where an outbreak of hepatitis A occurs.
  • People who need protection against HAV infection but are allergic to the vaccine.
  • Children younger than age 1 who need to be protected against HAV infection.

How Well It Works

If given within 2 weeks of exposure to the virus, immunoglobulin (IG) is more than 85% effective in preventing hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection.1

Immunoglobulin has been effective in controlling some outbreaks of HAV.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Soreness and swelling around the injection site.
  • Low-grade fever.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Immunoglobulin (IG) is a safe, inexpensive, and effective means of preventing the spread of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection.

The sooner you get a shot of IG after being exposed to HAV, the greater the likelihood that infection will be prevented.

IG protection is only temporary, lasting about 3 months. If you are planning to stay longer than 3 months in an area where hepatitis A is a problem, you should receive a higher initial dose of IG. You should receive the same higher dose of IG every 3 to 5 months while you are still at risk. Or you could get the hepatitis A vaccine and then would not need to get hepatitis A IG.

IG is prepared from blood products obtained from paid donors. In the United States, no cases of transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or hepatitis B virus (HBV) through IG have been reported. The safety of IG prepared in countries other than the U.S. cannot be guaranteed.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (2006). Hepatitis A. In LK Pickering et al., eds., Red Book: 2006 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 27th ed., pp. 326–335. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology
Last Revised August 30, 2012

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