What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a contagious, acute (new) liver disease that, unlike hepatitis B and C, does not become chronic (long-term).

Hepatitis A is a virus and its infections can be mild and last a few weeks, or severe and last several months.

People with hepatitis A are typically cured of the virus without treatment and often only need proper rest and fluid intake.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis A transmission is decreasing in the United States.

Getting tested is important if you have traveled or have lived in locations like Mexico, Eastern Europe, Africa, Central or South America, or certain parts of Asia where hepatitis A is prevalent.

To prevent infection, the hepatitis A vaccine can safely and effectively reduce your risk of transmission.

How is hepatitis A transmitted?

The hepatitis A virus can be contracted or spread when a person ingests infected fecal matter through contact with objects, food or drinks that carry the virus even in microscopic amounts.

Hepatitis A can also be transmitted during oral-anal sexual contact with an infected person. Since symptoms are often mild or not apparent, a person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before symptoms appear.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

Although not always present, hepatitis A symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes).

If present, symptoms usually appear as early as several days or two to six weeks post-exposure. Acute hepatitis A symptoms usually last less than two months, but can last up to six months.

Is there treatment for hepatitis A?

There is no treatment for hepatitis A. Individuals with the virus might feel sick for a few months before getting better.

Our doctors recommend adequate nutrition, rest, staying hydrated and receiving monitoring by a specialist. Liver damaging substances like alcohol and certain medications should be avoided if you have hepatitis A.

How can I prevent getting hepatitis A?

The best method for preventing hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends getting a shot of immunoglobulin before traveling or if you are at a high risk of contracting the virus.

Another way to help prevent contracting the hepatitis A virus is to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, and before and after preparing food.

What are the most common hepatitis A symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)

How do I know if I have hepatitis A?

The most accurate way to know if you have hepatitis A is to get tested. A simple Hepatitis A blood testcan detect antibodies to the virus and diagnose an acute infection.

Although hepatitis A symptoms are not always present, if you experience more than one of the common symptoms of hepatitis A or have recently been at risk for contracting the virus, seek medical attention.

How soon do hepatitis A symptoms appear?

Hepatitis A symptoms usually appear within days or 2-6 weeks after exposure. Typically, symptoms last less than two months, but in some cases may last as long as six months. Our doctors recommend close monitoring by a specialist, proper rest and fluids.

If present, what do hepatitis A symptoms feel like?

If present, common hepatitis A symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes).

How is Hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A is spread when the mouth comes in contact with objects, foods, or drinks that have been contaminated by the feces (or stool) of a hepatitis A infected person.

Other ways hepatitis A is transmitted include:

  • When a person engages in sexual activities, such as oral-anal contact, with an infected person.
  • When an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects or food.
  • When a parent or caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person.

How can I prevent getting Hepatitis A?

The best way to prevent contracting hepatitis A is to get vaccinated against it. According to CDC, the vaccine is safe and highly effective at preventing the infection.

It is recommended to get vaccinated if you are traveling out of the country or are at a high risk for contracting the virus.

Handwashing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food can also help prevent you from contracting hepatitis A.

If you have Hepatitis A, it is important to tell your partner

If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis A, it is important to tell your partner and others you have recently come in direct contact with. This way they, too, can be tested and keep from spreading the virus if they have it.

If I have had Hepatitis A, can I get it again?

No, if you have had hepatitis A in the past, your body has developed antibodies to the hepatitis A virus, so you cannot get it again. This same concept applies to the hepatitis A vaccine.

Is there a cure for hepatitis A?

Currently, there are no medications to cure the hepatitis A virus. Typically when you contract the virus, symptoms will last 2-6 months. These symptoms can feel like the flu, and doctors may even prescribe medications to treat these flu-like symptoms.

Getting vaccinated with the hepatitis A vaccine can create antibodies in your immune system, protecting you from contracting hepatitis A if given prior to coming in contact with the virus.

I have hepatitis A, what can I do to help prevent liver damage?

Abstaining from alcohol and consulting your doctor before taking certain medications that can affect the liver are ways that you can help prevent liver damage.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease and although it is easily manageable, long- term infections can cause liver damage or even death.