Hepatitis A is a liver infection. It is caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is found in the stool of a person who has the disease. It is spread when people eat food or drink water that has come in contact with the infected stool. This can happen if you eat food prepared by someone who has not washed his or her hands after changing a diaper or using the restroom.
In countries that have poor sewer systems, you can get the virus by drinking the water or eating foods washed in the water.
You can only get the hepatitis A virus once. After that, your body builds up a defence against it.
Symptoms usually last about 2 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.
Symptoms may include:
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:
If you think you have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus and have no symptoms, talk to your doctor. If you get the vaccine or a shot of immunoglobulin (IG) within 2 weeks of the exposure, you may not get the disease.
There is no treatment for hepatitis A. You get better on your own. You can take steps to help yourself feel better:
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: March 3, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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