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Hepatitis A is a liver disease that is easily spread from person to person (highly contagious). It is caused by the hepatitis A virus.
Hepatitis is a redness or swelling (inflammation) of the liver that sometimes causes lasting damage. Hepatitis A is one type of hepatitis.
In most cases hepatitis A does not cause a long-term or chronic infection. But it can take some time to fully get well. You may be sick for a few weeks, but it may take up to 6 months to fully recover.
In some cases hepatitis A can cause severe liver damage.
Hepatitis A is usually spread when the virus is taken in by mouth. This happens when you have contact with objects, food, or drinks that are contaminated by the stool of an infected person.
This may happen through person to person contact such as:
This can also happen if you:
In rare cases, the virus may also be spread by contamination from blood and other body fluids (blood-borne infection).
In most cases, normal contact in school or at work won’t spread the virus.
You may be at high risk for hepatitis A if you travel to places where the virus is common. These places include:
You may also be at high risk if you:
Hepatitis A is sometimes called a traveler's disease. It is a very common disease for travelers. But you can also get infected with hepatitis A in the U.S. In some cases people in the U.S. have gotten the virus without having any risk factors.
Symptoms of hepatitis A often look like flu symptoms. Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:
Some adults have no symptoms. Most children have no symptoms, especially children under 6 years old.
Hepatitis A symptoms can look like other health problems. Always see your health care provider to be sure.
Your health care provider will give you a physical exam and ask about your past health.
A blood test called IgM anti-HAV is needed to be sure you have hepatitis A. This test looks for any infection-fighting cells (antibodies) you may have against the hepatitis A virus in your blood. If these antibodies are in your blood, that means you have had an infection.
Your health care provider will create a care plan for you based on:
Most people with hepatitis A get better without any medical care. In some cases bed rest and some medicines may be needed.
To help stop the spread of hepatitis A, it is important to have good personal health (hygiene) habits and avoid any risky behaviors. Wash your hands often after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before making food.
In addition there are 2 shots that can help protect you from hepatitis A:
The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for anyone who wants it. The vaccine is very important for people who are at risk for infection such as:
Symptoms of hepatitis A can last from a few weeks to a few months. Follow your health care provider’s advice on how to treat and manage hepatitis A.
When you have hepatitis A it’s very important to:
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