Hepatitis A

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Overview

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, some medications, toxins, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis.

Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Although all types of viral hepatitis can cause similar symptoms, they are spread in different ways, have different treatments, and some are more serious than others.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine. People who get hepatitis A may feel sick for a few weeks to several months but usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage.

In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and even death; this is more common in older people and in people with other serious health issues, such as chronic liver disease.

Symptoms

Fatigue.

Sudden nausea and vomiting.

Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)

Clay-colored bowel movements.

Loss of appetite.

Low-grade fever.

Dark urine.

Joint pain.

Causes

The hepatitis A virus is transmitted primarily by the faecal-oral route; that is when an uninfected person ingests food or water that has been contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. In families, this may happen though dirty hands when an infected person prepares food for family members.

 a virus that infects liver cells and causes inflammation. The inflammation can affect how your liver works and cause other signs and symptoms of hepatitis A. The virus most commonly spreads when you eat or drink something contaminated with fecal matter, even just tiny amounts.

Risk factors

International travelers

Men who have sex with men

People who use or inject drugs (all those who use illegal drugs)

People with occupational risk for exposure

People who anticipate close personal contact with an international adoptee

People experiencing homelessness

People at increased risk for severe disease from hepatitis A infection


People with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C

People with HIV

Other people recommended for vaccination


Pregnant women at risk for hepatitis A or risk for severe outcome from hepatitis A infection

Any person who requests vaccination

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Complications

Common features include fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, emesis, and jaundice. The illness is usually self-limited and does not lead to chronic disease. Complications include cholestatic hepatitis, relapsing hepatitis, and autoimmune hepatitis. Rarely, hepatitis A can progress to acute liver failure.

In rare cases, hepatitis A can be severe and lead to liver failure and the need for an emergency liver transplant to survive. Hepatitis A does not lead to long-term complications, such as cirrhosis, because the infection only lasts a short time.

Prevention

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.