Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus.

Do I have hepatitis A?

The only way to know for sure if someone has, or has ever had hepatitis A is through a blood test. If a healthcare provider (medical doctor, nurse practitioner) suspects infection, they will usually test for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. 

If you think you were exposed to hepatitis A, contact a doctor or the health department right away. A vaccine and a substance called gamma globulin (another person's antibodies to hepatitis A) can help prevent infection. 

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection oars similar to those of many other gastrointestinal disorders or the "stomach flu".

 

Infants and young children rarely show symptoms -- or their symptoms are mild and overlooked. Adults are more likely to show symptoms. Infected people, with symptoms or without, can transmit the infection to others. 

If symptoms occur, they can be mild or severe and include one or more of the following:

Nausea

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Fever

Abdominal pain

Fatigue

Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin, dark urine)

Most people with hepatitis A are ill for a few weeks to a few months and then they fully recover. However, hepatitis A can be serious and life threatening, especially in the very young, the very old, people with liver disease (including hepatitis B or C), HIV, cancer, and certain other conditions. 

Prevention and Transmission

Hepatitis A can be transmitted in multiple ways. Infected people pass the virus in their stool (feces, poop). The virus enters the body of a new person when hands, food, water or objects contaminated with stool are put in the  mouth. This route of transmission is pretty frequent, especially with young children.

The amount of material needed to spread the infection is not even visible to the human eye. 

The virus can be spread when infected people don't wash their hands after using the restroom, changing diapers or soiled linens and then handle food or objects that someone else puts in their mouth.

Infection can also occur when people drink water contaminated with sewage, eat food that has contaminated waste in it, and through oral sex.

IV drug users and men who have sex with men are at increased risk for getting hepatitis A. 

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