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Hepatitis A


Hepatitis A is a very contagious liver infection caused by Hepatitis A virus (HAV). It’s one of several viruses that can inflame and affect your liver. 

You usually catch Hepatitis A by being close to someone or something that’s already infected. Mild cases of Hepatitis A get better on their own without needing specific treatment. Most people who get it make a full recovery without any lasting liver damage. 

To stop the virus from spreading, practice good hygiene, like washing your hands often. Hepatitis A vaccine can also protect you from getting sick with acute Hepatitis A.

How Do You Get Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is caused mainly through the “fecal-oral route.” It means passing when someone eating food, water, or objects contaminated with the virus from the feces of an infected person. This can happen if someone doesn’t wash their hands properly after using the bathroom and then handles food or objects. 

Common ways Hepatitis A spreads are: 

  • Have contaminated food or drinking contaminated water that has the virus. 
  • Come into direct contact with infected feces, like when taking someone infected.
  • Share personal items or have sex with an infected person. 
  • Travel to places where sanitation and hygiene are worst increases the risk of getting infected. 
  • The virus spreads through contact with an infected person’s stool.

Once the virus is swallowed, it enters the body through the intestines and travels to the liver, affecting liver cells. The body’s immune system fights the virus, causing liver inflammation and the symptoms of Hepatitis A. In middle-income countries and regions where sanitary conditions are variable, children often escape infection in early childhood and reach adulthood without immunity.

Preventive measures like getting the hepatitis A vaccine and practicing good hygiene, especially washing hands well can help stop the spread of the virus and prevent infection. 


Hepatitis A infection can cause a range of symptoms, which can vary in severity. Some people with hepatitis A may have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, while others may experience more severe symptoms. The Hepatitis A symptoms appear within several weeks after exposure to the virus and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Joint pain
  • Itching

It’s important to note that not everyone infected will develop all these signs of hepatitis A. Additionally, children younger than age 6 often have mild symptoms when infected with hepatitis A.


Your physician will start by asking about your symptoms and may check for high levels of liver enzymes in your blood through a liver function test. They will then take a blood test for hepatitis antigens and antibodies.

Antigens are parts of the hepatitis virus. Your immune system makes antibodies to fight the virus. There are two types of antibodies:

  • IgM (immunoglobulin M) antibodies: Specific diagnosis is made by the detection of HAV-specific immunoglobulin G (IgM) antibodies in the blood. Your body produces these when you first encounter hepatitis A. They can be detected in your blood for about 3-6 months.
  •  IgG (immunoglobulin G) antibodies: These develop later after the virus has been in your body. They can remain in your blood for a long time and protect you from hepatitis A. If you test positive for hepatitis A IgG antibody but not IgM, it means you either had a past hepatitis A infection or received vaccinations against it.

What Are Hepatitis A Virus Risk Factors? 

Several higher risk factors increase the likelihood of contracting hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection. Understanding these higher risk factors can help individuals take preventive measures to reduce the risk of exposure.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get the hepatitis A vaccine. It is also important to have good hygiene, especially washing your hands thoroughly after you go to the bathroom for disease control. However, a very small proportion of people infected with hepatitis A could die from fulminant hepatitis. Common risk factors for hepatitis A include:

  • Use of Recreational Drugs
  • Living in Institutional Settings
  • International Travel
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM)
  • Underlying Liver Disease
  • Uncooked or raw shellfish
  • Not Vaccinated Against Hepatitis A
  • Homeless 
  • High-calorie foods

Does Hepatitis Cause Acute Liver Failure?

Yes, hepatitis can cause acute liver failure in some rare cases, particularly hepatitis B virus and hepatitis E. Acute liver failure is a rare but serious condition where the liver suddenly stops functioning, leading to rapid deterioration of liver function and potential multi-organ failure. For the disease control, consult your primary care physician. They will recommend the hepatitis A vaccine. However, a liver infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus.

Does Viral Hepatitis A Cause Chronic Liver Disease?

No, viral hepatitis A does not cause chronic liver disease. It typically results in acute viral hepatitis, which resolves spontaneously without leading to long-term liver damage or chronic infection.


There’s no Hepatitis A treatment or medicine to cure it once you have it. Your physician will focus on treating your symptoms and making you feel better until the virus goes away on its own. The best way to recover is to rest, drink plenty of liquids, and eat healthy foods. Your provider may also suggest medicines to help relieve symptoms. In some rare cases, healthcare providers also recommend an injection of immune globulin. They will also check how well your liver is working to ensure you’re healing properly.

To help yourself feel more comfortable:

  • Rest when you feel tired or sick. You might have less energy than usual.
  • Eat small snacks throughout the day if you find it hard to eat full meals due to nausea. Try foods that are high in calories and drink fruit juice or milk instead of water to stay hydrated. Stick to bottled water and well-cooked food.
  • Avoid alcohol and let your physician know about any medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs, as they can strain your liver and worsen the condition.

When To See A Doctor

If you are experiencing symptoms of hepatitis A, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for a hepatitis A diagnosis.

Receiving the hepatitis A vaccine or an injection of immunoglobulin within two weeks of being exposed to the hepatitis A virus can help protect you from infection.

Consult your healthcare provider to inquire about getting the hepatitis A virus vaccine if:

  • You have recently traveled to regions where the virus is prevalent, especially Mexico, Central America, South America, or areas with poor sanitation.
  • You have eaten at a restaurant where there was a hepatitis A outbreak.
  • You are living with someone who has hepatitis A.
  • You have had recent sexual contact with a person who has hepatitis A.


This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about Hepatitis A or any other medical condition, please see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.