General Public Fact Sheet Kent County Health Department
Hepatitis A Fact Sheet
What is hepatitis A? Note: A person who has symptoms of
Hepatitis A is a liver disease. It is caused by jaundice or been diagnosed with hepatitis
the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). A should not work as a food handler or
take care of patients, children or senior
What are the symptoms? citizens.
Symptoms usually start within six weeks
after being infected. They include: How is hepatitis A diagnosed and
• Yellow eyes (jaundice) A blood test done by your doctor is needed to
• Dark urine diagnose hepatitis A.
• Fever There is no special treatment for hepatitis A
• Tiredness infection. Infected people should get a lot of
• Loss of appetite bed rest, eat a balanced diet, drink fluids,
• Stomach ache avoid alcohol, and wash hands thoroughly
• Vomiting with soap and running water after using the
Children rarely show symptoms of infection.
Three of every four adults will have Infected people should not share towels,
symptoms which develop over several days. washcloths, or soap, share eating utensils, or
make or handle food that will be eaten by
others until at least two weeks after their
How is hepatitis A spread? jaundice appears or symptoms are gone.
HAV is found in the stool (bowel
movement). It is spread from person to Is hepatitis A serious?
person by putting something in the mouth Symptoms usually last less than two months.
that has been contaminated with the infected In a few cases, people can be sick for as long
stool. as six months.
Poor personal hygiene and poor sanitation are Unlike hepatitis B and hepatitis C, hepatitis A
the most common causes of HAV. Most does not cause any long-term liver damage.
infections result from contact with a It usually does not cause death. Once a
household member or sex partner who has person has recovered from HAV, he will
hepatitis A. Casual contact (school, office or never get HAV again. In a few cases, there
factory setting) does not spread the virus. can be more serious complications which
may require hospitalization.
A person can spread HAV about one week
before symptoms are seen and during the first
How can hepatitis A be
week of symptoms. People with no
symptoms can also spread HAV. prevented?
To prevent hepatitis A:
• Wash your hands after using the
Hepatitis A Fact Sheet – page 2
• Wash your hands after changing a • People who have clotting factor
diaper. disorders such as hemophilia.
• Wash your hands before and after • People who work with HAV-infected
making or eating food. animals or work with HAV in a
• Wash fruits and vegetables before
eating. Hepatitis A vaccine is generally not
recommended for health care workers or food
• Cook shellfish completely. service workers.
• Immune globulin can be given before How to wash your hands
exposure for short-term protection 1. Use warm water and liquid soap.
against hepatitis A. It is also given to
people who have been exposed to 2. Lather all parts of the hands and rub
HAV. Immune globulin must be briskly for 20 seconds. Be sure to include:
given within two weeks after exposure
for the greatest protection. • the backs of your hands
• between your fingers
• Hepatitis A vaccines provide long- • wrists
term protection against hepatitis A.
They are licensed for use in people 3. Use a brush or nail file to clean under
two years of age and older. your fingernails.
Who should get vaccinated 4. Rinse well under warm running water.
against hepatitis A?
The hepatitis vaccination is recommended for 5. Dry hands with a paper towel or air
the following groups: dryer. Don’t use a cloth towel.
• People traveling to or working in 6. Turn off the water using the paper towel
countries that have high or instead of your clean hands.
intermediate rates of hepatitis A.
This fact sheet is for information only and is
not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a
• Children in communities with
substitute for talking with a health care
constant higher rates of hepatitis A.
provider. If you have any questions about
The Health Department can tell you hepatitis A or think you may have it, call your
whether your area has these higher health care provider.
• Men who have sex with men.
• People who use illegal (street) drugs.
©2004 Kent County Health Department
• People who have chronic liver disease. 700 Fuller Ave NE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503