1. How could I have gotten the virus without knowing it?
The virus is passed through contact with stool (fecal matter) from an infected person, typically via contaminated food or water. If a person infected with HAV does not wash their hands after using the bathroom, that person can pass the virus by handling raw fruits and vegetables consumed by others, or directly through person to person contact. You can also contract the virus by eating raw or improperly cooked seafood that had fed in contaminated waters. You may also contract the virus through sexual contact with someone who is infected but asymptomatic.
2. If I have hepatitis A, how long will I be contagious?
According to the World Health Organization, you can spread the disease to others roughly 1 to 3 weeks before symptoms, such as jaundice, begin to appear. Symptoms typically develop within 4 weeks but can appear any time between 2 and 6 weeks after you are first infected. You can continue to be contagious, but less so, for several weeks after jaundice develops.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Mild forms of the disease usually resolve on their own and leave no lasting damage to the liver. The focus is usually on supportive therapy, making sure you are getting enough fluids and nutrition by eating and drinking small amounts several times a day. In rare cases, fulminant hepatitis, a life-threatening form that causes liver failure, requires hospitalization. Hepatitis A tends to be more severe in the elderly and in those who also have chronic liver disease, so person with acute hepatitis A in those settings should be watched more closely.
Yes. There is a vaccine available. It is recommended that all children be vaccinated at age one year. Any children ages 2-18 who did not receive the vaccine at age one should also receive the vaccine. It is also recommended for people who are at an increased risk of exposure to the virus, such as:
People traveling to developing countries with a high rate of hepatitis A
Illegal drug users
Men who have sex with men
The vaccine is also recommended for those who are at a greater risk for complications from the disease, including people with chronic liver disease and those who have damage to their liver from some other cause.
If it is known that you were exposed to the hepatitis A virus, you may be given the vaccine to prevent the disease.
Hepatitis A can also be prevented with good hygiene. This includes washing hands well after using the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before eating or starting any food preparation.
This article was last reviewed on February 24, 2014. | This article was last modified on February 24, 2014.
The review date indicates when the article was last reviewed from beginning to end to ensure that it reflects the most current science. A review may not require any modifications to the article, so the two dates may not always agree.
The modified date indicates that one or more changes were made to the article. Such changes may or may not result from a full review of the article, so the two dates may not always agree.