Hep A (Hepatitis A)

Hep A (Hepatitis A) is is a contagious, short-lived viral infection of the liver. Hepatitis A (HAV) can be a mild illness that lasts a few weeks or a serious illness that lasts several months. The three most common types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Each type of hepatitis is caused by a different virus. All three types of hepatitis cause similar symptoms, but they are spread to other people in different ways and can affect the liver differently. People with HAV usually get better without treatment. People with hepatitis B or hepatitis C may get chronic disease or have long-term liver problems. If someone has one type of hepatitis, it is still possible to get the other types. However, you can only get HAV once. After you recover from HAV, your body develops antibodies that protect you from getting HAV again.

At-Risk Populations

  • Anyone who shares a bathroom or kitchen with someone else who is infected with HAV.
  • Anyone who lives in or travels to areas where HAV is common.
  • Anyone who has anal contact during sex with someone else who is infected with HAV.
  • Anyone who works in, attends, or lives at a daycare or other place where people wear diapers or need help going to the bathroom.

If you are at-risk for HAV infection, contact your healthcare provider. Early diagnosis will help prevent spreading the disease and protect your liver.

Symptoms

Some people with HAV do not have any symptoms, and adults are more likely to have symptoms than children are. If symptoms occur, they usually start two to six weeks after being exposed to HAV. If you do have symptoms, they may include:

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

How It Spreads

HAV is spread by coming in contact with food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of someone else who has HAV or by having sex with someone who has HAV.

Prevention

  • Get the Hepatitis A vaccine series. The vaccine is usually given as a series of two or three shots during a six-month period.
  • Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom or change the diaper of a young child or an adult.
  • Wash your hands before preparing food.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex.
  • Immune Globulin (IG) or vaccine may be recommended for household members and anyone else who has close contact with a person who has HAV.

Testing & Diagnosis

If you think you have been exposed to HAV, contact your healthcare provider to get an HAV blood test.

Treatment

There are no special treatments for HAV. When someone has HAV, doctors usually recommend rest, healthy food, and plenty of fluids. (People with HAV should avoid alcoholic beverages.)

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