Hepatitis A - Fact Sheet

 

What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus.

Where is the hepatitis A virus found?
Hepatitis A is found in the stool of persons infected with hepatitis A.

How does this virus spread?

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 spread by person-to-person contact or by contaminated food or drink.

 

Who gets hepatitis A?

Anyone can become infected with hepatitis A; however, infection occurs more frequently in school-aged children and young adults.

 

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?
Symptoms of hepatitis A infection may include fever, fatigue, poor appetite, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. 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. There is no chronic infection with hepatitis A.

How soon do symptoms appear?
The symptoms may appear 15 – 50 days after exposure (average 28 – 30 days).

How long is an infected person able to spread the virus?
The contagious period begins approximately 2 weeks before the symptoms appear and continues for approximately 1 week after the onset of symptoms. Prolonged excretion of virus (up to 6 months) in children and infants has been documented.

What is the treatment for hepatitis A?
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. However, people who have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus should receive a shot of hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin (IG), depending on their age and other medical factors. This treatment may provide protection and minimize symptoms of hepatitis A infection 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 and has been licensed in the United States for use in persons 12 months of age and older. The vaccine is recommended (before exposure to hepatitis A virus) for the following persons who are more likely to get hepatitis A virus infection or more likely to get seriously ill if they do get hepatitis A.
    • Children living in communities in the United States with consistently high hepatitis A rates.
    • 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).
 
 

This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.

 

 

For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.