(HealthDay News) — There has been a sharp decline in the rate of hospitalizations for hepatitis A in the United States, according to a study published online recently in Hepatology.

Researchers analyzed federal government data and found that the rate of hospitalization for hepatitis A infection fell from 0.72 to 0.29 per 100,000 patients between 2002–2011.

During that same time, the average age of hospitalized patients rose from 38 to 46. The percentage of hepatitis A-related hospitalizations covered by Medicare went up from 12 to 23%, the researchers found. Older patients and those with chronic liver disease were most likely to be hospitalized for hepatitis A infection.

Hepatitis A vaccinations for adults with chronic liver disease may prevent infection with hepatitis A and the need for hospitalization, study leader Dr. Melissa Collier, MD, of the division of viral hepatitis at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues said in a journal news release. They suggested that doctors should consider vaccinating patients at high risk for hepatitis A infection.

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