Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect your liver’s ability to function.

You’re most likely to get hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person or object that’s infected. Mild cases of hepatitis A don’t require treatment. Most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage.

Symptoms

Hepatitis A signs and symptoms typically don’t appear until you’ve had the virus for a few weeks. But not everyone with hepatitis A develops them. If you do, hepatitis signs and symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sudden nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Intense itching

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have signs or symptoms of hepatitis A.

Getting a hepatitis A vaccine or an injection of immunoglobulin (an antibody) within two weeks of exposure to hepatitis A may protect you from infection. Ask your doctor or your local health department about receiving the hepatitis A vaccine if:

  • You’ve traveled out of the country recently, particularly to Mexico or South or Central America, or to areas with poor sanitation
  • A restaurant where you recently ate reports a hepatitis A outbreak
  • Someone close to you, such as a roommate or caregiver, is diagnosed with hepatitis A
  • You recently had sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A

Risk factors

You’re at increased risk of hepatitis A if you:

  • Travel or work in areas of the world where hepatitis A is common
  • Attend child care or work in a child care center
  • Live with another person who has hepatitis A
  • Are a man who has sexual contact with other men
  • Have any type of sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A
  • Are HIV positive
  • Are experiencing homelessness
  • Have a clotting-factor disorder, such as hemophilia

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