Hepatitis A is a serious and contagious liver disease caused by a virus. The disease can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is not a lifelong infection like other types of hepatitis can be. Once you get it, you cannot get it again.
Please contact your healthcare provider if you think you have hepatitis A.
Symptoms of hepatitis A infections usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after contact with the virus and may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Light or grey colored stools
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
An infected person is most contagious about two weeks before symptoms appear until about one week after jaundice appears. People with this infection cannot work as food handlers, healthcare providers, or childcare workers until symptoms have stopped.
If you have symptoms, see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
People usually get sick with hepatitis A by putting something in their mouth that has touched the feces (poop) of an infected person, such as foods, drinks, contaminated objects, or sexual contact. It can also be transmitted by eating raw or undercooked shellfish (oysters, clams, mollusks, etc.), drinking contaminated water, or through illegal drug use (whether the drugs are injected or not).
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine 6 months apart. Everyone is recommended to be vaccinated for hepatitis A, but some people are at higher risk and vaccination is highly recommended.
If you have hepatitis A, you can prevent spreading the virus to others by doing the following:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially before eating or preparing food or drinks and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
- Avoid raw or undercooked shellfish.
- Only drink safe, treated water. Do not swallow water in pools, lakes, rivers, etc.
- Do not swim when you have diarrhea.
- Practice safe food handling: wash all fruits and vegetables, cook meats well, and keep raw meats and their juices away from other food.
- Use extra caution when traveling to developing countries: “Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it!”
- Household contacts of someone with hepatitis A should receive the hepatitis A vaccine from their healthcare provider within 2 weeks to prevent the illness if they have never been vaccinated for hepatitis A or had the infection previously.