Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver. It can be passed easily from contaminated food, water, or close contact with an infected person.
Hepatitis A is caused by a specific virus. It may be spread by:
Hepatitis A is present in stool of people with the infection. They can spread the infection if they do not wash their hands after using the bathroom and touch other objects or food.
Factors that increase your chance of a hepatitis A infection include:
Hepatitis A does not always cause symptoms. Adults are more likely to have them than children.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Hepatitis A usually goes away on its own within two months. There are no lasting effects in most once the infection passes.
The goals of hepatitis A treatments are to:
You will be immune to the virus once you are well.
In rare cases, the infection is very severe. A liver transplant may be needed in these cases if the liver is severely damaged.
To decrease your chance of hepatitis A:
Medical treatments that may help prevent infection include:
Check with your doctor to see if you should receive the vaccine.
American Liver Foundation
Hepatitis Foundation International
Canadian Institute for Health Information
Canadian Liver Foundation
Baker CJ, Pickerling LK, et al; Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2011. Ann Intern Med. 2011;154(3):168-173.
Hepatitis A. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated December 19, 2012. Accessed February 20, 2013.
Hepatitis A FAQs for the Public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/A/aFAQ.htm#overview. Updated September 17, 2009. Accessed February 20, 2013.
Hepatitis A vaccine. What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-hep-a.pdf. Accessed February 20, 2012.
What I need to know about hepatitis A. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hepa_ez/index.aspx. Updated December 19, 2012. Accessed February 20, 2013.
Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
9/25/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Updated recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for use of hepatitis A vaccine in close contacts of newly arriving international adoptees. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009;58:1006.
Last reviewed March 2014 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.