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Hepatitis A: FAQ

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What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

If you have this infection, you have inflammation in your liver that's caused by a virus. You don't always get symptoms, but when you do, you might have:

Children often have the disease with few symptoms.

You can spread the hepatitis A virus about 2 weeks before your symptoms appear and during the first week they show up, or even if you don't have any.

How Is It Spread?

The virus is in the stool of people with hepatitis A. You can catch the disease if you drink water or food that's been contaminated with the stool of someone with the virus.

You can also get infected if you:

  • Eat fruits, vegetables, or other foods that were contaminated during handling
  • Eat raw shellfish harvested from water that's got the virus in it
  • Swallow contaminated ice

Who's at Highest Risk?

You could be at risk for the disease if you:

  • Live with or have sex with someone who's infected
  • Travel to countries where hepatitis A is common

People who are also at risk are:

  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who inject illegal drugs
  • Kids in child care and their teachers

How Is It Diagnosed?

Blood tests allow doctors to diagnose it.

Are There Any Long-Term Effects?

Usually the virus doesn't cause any long-term problems or complications. But according to the CDC, 10% to 15% of people with hepatitis A will have symptoms that last a long time or come back over a 6- to 9-month period. In rare situations, some people may have liver failure or need a transplant.

What's the Treatment?

No treatments can cure the disease. Your doctor may take tests that check your liver function to be sure your body is healing.

Is There a Hepatitis A Vaccine?

Yes. Vaccination is recommended for:

  • Travelers to areas of the world with increased hepatitis A infection
  • Men who have sex with other men
  • Those with a blood clotting problem
  • People who inject illegal drugs
  • Anyone with long-term liver disease

The vaccine is given in doses.

Can Hepatitis A Be Prevented?

Getting vaccinated is your best defense. If you come in contact with someone with hepatitis A, you can get a specific medication called immune globulin within 2 weeks.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on July 09, 2014
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