Top of the page
Hepatitis A is a virus that can infect the liver. Hepatitis A spreads when people eat food or drink water that is contaminated by stool (feces) that has the virus in it. The infection usually goes away on its own and doesn't lead to long-term liver problems. Rarely, it can be more serious.
The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of an infected person. It is spread when a person eats food or drinks water that has come in contact with infected stool.
Hepatitis A is common in developing countries, where there may be poor sanitation and poor hygiene. It's one of the most common vaccine-preventable illnesses in travellers. If you're travelling to any developing country, you're at risk for hepatitis A and should get a vaccine.
It also can be spread when someone touches items that have infected stool on them and then drinks or eats without washing their hands.
Sometimes people can get hepatitis A at a restaurant when employees who have hepatitis A don't wash their hands well after using the toilet and then prepare food. It can also happen when a food item comes into contact with raw sewage.
The disease can also spread in daycare centres. Children, especially those in diapers, may get stool on their hands and then touch objects that other children then put into their mouths. Workers can spread the virus if they don't wash their hands well after changing a diaper.
Symptoms may include:
Symptoms usually last about 3 months. They go away on their own in almost all cases and do not need treatment. Although hepatitis A is an infection of the liver, the disease does not lead to long-term liver problems.
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and where you have eaten or travelled. You may have blood tests. These tests can tell if your liver is inflamed and whether you have antibodies to the hepatitis A virus. These antibodies show that you have been exposed to the virus.
There is no treatment for hepatitis A. You get better on your own. You can take steps to help yourself feel better:
You can get hepatitis A or give it to other people before and after symptoms are present.
To avoid getting hepatitis A:
To avoid spreading hepatitis A if you have it:
Adaptation Date: 3/1/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.