Hepatitis A

1 What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a very contagious infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV).

This virus is one of several hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and can  affect the liver ability to function normally. One is most likely to acquire hepatitis A from contaminated food or water and also from an infected individual.


Mild cases of hepatitis A do not need to be treated, and most individuals usually recover with no permanent damage to their liver. Practicing good hygiene, which includes washing hands  frequently, is one of the best ways to  protect oneself from infection. Vaccines are available for most individuals at risk.

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2 Symptoms

Hepatitis A signs and symptoms only appear when the virus has been in the system for a few weeks, they include:

  • fatigue,
  • nausea  and vomiting,
  • abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the right side beneath the ribs,
  • clay-coloured bowel movements,
  • loss of appetite,
  • low-grade fever,
  • dark urine,
  • joint pain and jaundice,which is the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

Anyone with hepatitits A  may have a mild illness that lasts a few weeks or a severe illness that goes on for months. Not all individuals with hepatitis A develop signs and symptoms.

3 Causes

Hepatitis A virus, which causes the infection, usually is spread when a person ingests even tiny amounts of contaminated fecal matter. This virus causes the inflammation of the liver but infecting liver cells. The inflammation can destroy liver function and lead to  other signs and symptom of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is spread in the following ways:

  • consuming contaminated food,
  • drinking contaminated water,
  • eating uncooked food from contaminated water bodies,
  • being in close contact with an infected individual, even if they do not show any signs and symptoms,
  • having sex with an infected person.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Blood tests are used to diagnose hepatitis A in the body. A sample of blood is taken, usually from a vein in the arm, and sent to a laboratory for testing.

If signs and symptoms of hepatitis A are noticed, an appointment with a family doctor or a general practitioner must be made. Because appointments can be brief and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared.

When making the appointment, find out if there's anything needed to be done in advance, such as making diet restrictions. Write down the symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment.

Write down key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes. List medications, vitamins and supplements you take. It is important to write down questions to ask the doctor. Listing questions for the doctor can help make the most of the time together.

For hepatitis A infection, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:

  • What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
  • Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
  • If I have hepatitis A, what can I do to keep from infecting others?
  • Should people close to me receive the hepatitis A vaccine?
  • Can I continue to work or go to school while I have hepatitis A?
  • What signs and symptoms signal that my hepatitis A is causing serious complications?
  • How will I know when I can no longer pass hepatitis A to others?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material I can have?
  • What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions you have. The doctor is likely to ask a number of questions, including:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?

5 Treatment

There is no specific treatment that exists for hepatitis A. The human body has the capability of clearing the virus on its ow. In most cases, of hepatitis A, the liver heals within six months without any lasting damage.

Hepatitis A treatment usually centers around coping with the signs and symptoms.

An individual may also need to rest. They also need to cope with nausea by snacking throughout the day and avoiding full meals. One can also rest their  liver by reducing the amount of toxic substances that the liver has to process. This  includes staying away from certain medications and avoiding alcohol.

6 Prevention

The Hepatitis A vaccine can prevent infection with the virus. This vaccine is typically given in two doses, the initial vaccination followed by booster shot after a period of six months.

The following individuals must receive the vaccine:

  • all children at age 1,
  • laboratory workers who may come in contact with hepatitis A,
  • homosexual men,
  • people planning to travel to areas with high rates of hepatitis A,
  • people who use ilicit drugs ,
  • people who receive treatment of clotting factor concentrates,
  • individuals with chronic liver diseases.

It is also very important to follow safety precautions when travelling and practicing good hygiene.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

The following lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to reduce the risk of passing hepatitis A to others:

  • avoid all sexual activity as condoms do not offer enough protection,
  • one must also wash their hands thoroughly after using the lavatory and preparing food while infected must also be avoided, this can easily infect other individuals with the virus.

8 Risks and Complications

Any individual is at the risk of developing hepatitis A if they:

  • travel to regions with high cases of the infection,
  • attend or work in a child care facility,
  • are a homosexual man,
  • have the HIV virus already,
  • have a clotting factor disorder,
  • such as hemophilia,
  • use injected or non-injected illicit drugs,
  • live with an infected individual
  • if they have oral-anal contact with an infected person.

Unlike the other two forms of hepatitis A does not lead to long-term liver damage and does not have a chronic phase.

In very rare cases, hepatitis A can cause loss of liver function that usually occurs suddenly, especially in adults or people with chronic liver conditions. Acute liver failure requires monitoring and treatment. Some individuals with acute  liver failure may require a liver transplant.

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