What is Hepatitis A?



"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver and also refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver. The most common types are: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis; most do not know they are infected.

 

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an infection that harms the liver. The liver is a big organ in the upper right side of the belly.

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus. When people have hepatitis A, the virus leaves their body through a bowel movement.  If infected people do not wash their hands after they use the bathroom, they can have the virus on their hands. Then they can spread the virus to anything they touch, including food, water, and other people.  People all over the world can get hepatitis A.  Rarely, hepatitis A can cause liver damage that will lead to death.

 

Symptoms of Hepatitis A:

In children, Hepatitis A does not usually cause any symptoms. In adults, hepatitis A causes a flu-like illness that starts suddenly about a month after a person is infected.

 

At first, symptoms usually include:

Later on, symptoms usually include:

 

How do people get hepatitis A

 

People can get hepatitis A after they eat food or drink water with the virus in it. People can also get it if they touch something that has the virus on it and then touch their food or put their hands in their mouth. Hepatitis A is transmitted predominantly by the fecal-oral route. The incubation period is 2 to 6 weeks; infected individuals are contagious during the incubation period and remain so for about a week after jaundice appears.

 

What if I live with or was with someone who has hepatitis A

 

If you live with or were with someone who has hepatitis A, let your doctor or nurse know as soon as possible. If you never got the hepatitis A vaccine, you might need to get it. Or your doctor might give you a shot of medicine to help prevent you from getting the infection.

 

How is hepatitis A treated

 

Most of the time, the infection will get better on its own. But there are things you can do at home to help your liver heal.

 

You can:

 

In rare cases, people need to be treated in the hospital