What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a virus that can infect the liver. In most cases, the infection goes away on its own and doesn't lead to long-term liver problems.
In rare cases, it can be more serious.
Other viruses (hepatitis B and
hepatitis C) also can cause hepatitis. Hepatitis A is the
most common type.
How is hepatitis A spread?
The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of an infected
person. It is spread when a person eats food or drinks water that has come in
contact with infected stool.
Sometimes a group of people who eat
at the same restaurant can get hepatitis A. This can happen when an employee
with hepatitis A doesn't wash his or her hands well after using the bathroom
and then prepares food. It can also happen when a food item is contaminated by raw sewage or by an infected garden worker.
The disease can also spread in day care
centers. Children, especially those in diapers, may get
stool on their hands and then touch objects that other children put into their
mouths. And workers can spread the virus if they don't wash their hands well after
changing a diaper.
Some things can raise your risk of getting
hepatitis A, such as eating raw oysters or undercooked clams. If you're
traveling in a country where hepatitis A is common, you can lower your chances
of getting the disease by avoiding uncooked foods and untreated tap
You may also be at risk if you live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis A.
What are the symptoms?
After you have been exposed
to the virus, it can take from 2 to 7 weeks before you see any signs of it.
Symptoms usually last for about 2 months but may last longer.
- Feeling very tired.
sick to your stomach and not feeling hungry.
weight without trying.
- Pain on the right side of the belly, under
the rib cage (where your liver is).
- A fever.
- Yellow skin (jaundice), dark urine, and clay-colored stools.
All forms of hepatitis have similar symptoms. Only a
blood test can tell if you have hepatitis A or another form of the disease.
Call your doctor if you have reason to think that you have hepatitis A or have been exposed to it. (For example, did you recently eat in a restaurant where a server was found to have hepatitis A? Has there been an outbreak at your child's day care? Does someone in your house have hepatitis A?)
How is hepatitis A diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask
questions about your symptoms and where you have eaten or traveled. You may
have blood tests if your doctor thinks you have the virus. These tests can tell
if your liver is inflamed and whether you have
antibodies to the hepatitis A virus. These antibodies
prove that you have been exposed to the virus.