Hepatitis A

Reviewed by Ruthann Cunningham, MD, June 6, 2017

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is transmitted by contaminated food and water or can be transmitted sexually from person to person if one partner is positive for the Hepatitis A virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this infection can range in severity and length. In some cases, the infection can last only a few weeks and present with mild symptoms. In other cases, hepatitis A can continue for months and cause serious digestive tract symptoms.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

Almost 70% of patients infected with hepatitis A have symptoms. Usually this occurs about 28 days after getting infected. Most people are better in 2-3 months but symptoms may last longer.

Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Fever and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine and clay colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)

Source: CDC - Viral Hepatitis - Hepatitis A Information

How do you get hepatitis A?

The most common way to contract hepatitis A is through water or food that has been contaminated by the stool of someone carrying the virus. It can be spread from person to person through the infected stool during anal-oral sex.

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How do I get tested for hepatitis A?

If you have reason to believe you are at risk for hepatitis, whether or not you are feeling symptoms, getting tested is simple. The hepatitis A IgM test screens for the infection. It is a blood test. It does not require fasting. Once you get tested, results will be available to you usually in 3 business days or less.

Is there a cure or treatment for hepatitis A?

Most of cases hepatitis A clear up on their own without a great deal of medical intervention. If you are feeling symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day lifestyle or are in a significant amount of pain, please contact your doctor right away.

What if I don't get hepatitis A treatment?

Most case of hepatitis A clear up on their own with rest and fluids. However, liver infections left undiagnosed and unmonitored can become very serious. Knowing your status is a simple and effective way to safeguard against the more harmful complications of a compromised liver.

How can I prevent getting hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is preventable by vaccine. It’s recommended that all infants receive this vaccine before the age of 1.

Make sure to use protection during sex with every partner. This is an effective way to protect against all STDs, including hepatitis A.

If you are traveling to areas where hepatitis A infections are more common, you can get vaccinated beforehand at any age. It is a safe, effective measure to protect against a potentially severe liver infection.

Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A does not become chronic, and can only be sexually transmitted by anal-oral sex.


NIDDK - Hepatitis A
CDC - Viral Hepatitis - Hepatitis A Information
Mayo Clinic - Hepatitis A
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