What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection.
Who is at risk for hepatitis A?
- International travelers, particularly those traveling to developing countries.
- People who live with or have sex with an infected person.
- People living in areas where children are not routinely vaccinated against Hepatitis A, where outbreaks are more likely.
- Employees and children at day care centers during outbreaks.
- Have sexual contact with someone who has HAV including men who have sex with men.
- Users of recreational drugs, injection or other.
- Have clotting factor disorders, such as hemophilia.
How is hepatitis A spread?
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.
Older children and adults typically have symptoms. If symptoms develop, they can appear abruptly and can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stools
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Most children younger than age 6 do not have symptoms when they have hepatitis A. When symptoms are present, young children typically do not have jaundice but most older children and adults with hepatitis A have jaundice.
How soon after exposure to hepatitis A will symptoms appear?
How long do hepatitis A symptoms last?
Can a person spread hepatitis A without having symptoms?
Yes. Many people, especially children, have no symptoms. In addition, a person can transmit the virus to others up to 2 weeks before symptoms appear.
No specific treatment exists for HAV. Your body will clear HAV on its own. HAV treatment is supportive and mainly focuses on coping with your signs and symptoms.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. To get the full benefit of the hepatitis A vaccine, more than one shot is needed. The number and timing of these shots depends on the type of vaccine you are given. Practicing good hand hygiene – including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food – plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.