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Digestive Diseases and Hepatitis A

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What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus.

When symptoms occur, they may include:

Children often have hepatitis A with few symptoms.

A person can spread the hepatitis A virus about 2 weeks before his or her symptoms appear and during the first week of having symptoms. People with no symptoms can also spread the virus.

How Is Hepatitis A Transmitted?

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.

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