What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus.
How is hepatitis A spread (transmitted)?
Hepatitis A is found in the stool (feces) of persons with hepatitis A. It is usually spread by putting something in the mouth that is contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis A can be carried on an infected person’s hands and can be spread by person-to-person contact, or by contaminated food or drink.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Symptoms of hepatitis A infection may include fatigue, poor appetite, fever, and vomiting. Urine may become darker in color, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) may occur. The disease is rarely fatal. Infants and young children tend to have very mild symptoms and are less likely to develop jaundice than older children and adults.
What are the long-term effects?
There is no chronic infection with hepatitis A as there can be with hepatitis B and hepatitis C. About 15% of persons with hepatitis A will have prolonged symptoms lasting up to 6 to 9 months.
How soon do symptoms appear?
The symptoms may appear 2 to 6 weeks after exposure, but usually within 3 to 4 weeks.
How long is an infected person able to spread the virus?
The contagious period begins approximately 1-2 week before the symptoms appear, and continues for several days after onset of jaundice. Prolonged excretion of virus (up to 6 months) in children and infants has been documented.
How is hepatitis A diagnosed?
Only doctors can diagnose hepatitis A. Diagnosis is based on a laboratory test for hepatitis A.
What is the treatment for hepatitis A?
People who have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus should receive a shot of immune globulin (IG). An injection of IG may provide protection and minimize symptoms of hepatitis A infection only if a person receives it within 2 weeks after exposure to the virus.
How can hepatitis A be prevented?
- Always wash hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
- Hepatitis A vaccine is the best protection. The following are recommended to be vaccinated:
- Travelers to countries with increased rates of hepatitis A (check with your doctor)
- Men who have sex with men
- Injecting drug users
- Persons with chronic liver disease
- Persons with clotting factor disorders (such as hemophilia)