The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of people with hepatitis A. It is spread from person to person by putting something in your mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of an infected person.
Therefore, hepatitis A is most commonly transmitted in drinking water or food contaminated with the stool containing the virus.
It is spread easily where there is poor sanitation or poor personal hygiene.
Other ways to get hepatitis A include:
Eating fruits, vegetables, or other foods that were contaminated during handling
Eating raw shellfish harvested from water contaminated with the virus
Swallowing contaminated water or ice
Who Is at Highest Risk of Hepatitis A?
Those who are the highest risk of hepatitis A infection include:
People living with or having sex with an infected person
People traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common
Men who have sex with men
Injecting and noninjecting drug users
Children and employees in child care settings
How Is Hepatitis A Diagnosed?
Blood tests can diagnose hepatitis A.
Are There Any Long-Term Effects of Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A causes acute (short-lived) infection. The liver heals itself over a few weeks to months. Usually the virus doesn't cause any long-term problems or complications. However, according to the CDC, 10% to 15% of people with hepatitis A will have prolonged or relapsing symptoms over a six- to nine-month period. Rarely, patients will develop acute liver failure, which can be fatal, or require a liver transplant.
What's the Treatment for Hepatitis A?
There are no treatments that will cure hepatitis A. Your health care provider may monitor your liver function tests to be sure your body is healing appropriately.
Is There a Hepatitis A Vaccine?
Yes. Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended for people older than 1 year old who:
Are traveling to areas of the world with increased hepatitis A infection
Are men who have sex with other men
Have a blood clotting problem
Are injecting and noninjecting drug users
Have chronic liver disease
The vaccine is given in two divided doses.
Can Hepatitis A Be Prevented?
Vaccination is your best defense against hepatitis A. In addition, if you come in contact with someone with hepatitis A you can receive a specific medication called immune globulin within two weeks of contact.
Good hygiene is also important. Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before and after handling food, and after changing a diaper.