Hepatitis A Information
| Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A is highly contagious. It is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. More than 80% of adults with Hepatitis A have symptoms but the majority of children do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. Antibodies produced in response to Hepatitis A last for life and protect against reinfection.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?
Some people with Hepatitis A do not have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)
How is Hepatitis A spread?
Hepatitis A is usually spread when the Hepatitis A virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces (or stool) of an infected person. A person can get Hepatitis A through:
- Person to person contact
- when an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects or food
- when a parent or caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person
- when someone has sex or sexual contact with an infected person. (not limited to anal-oral contact)
- Contaminated food or water
- Hepatitis A can be spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the virus. (This can include frozen or undercooked food.) This is more likely to occur in countries where Hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene. The food and drinks most likely to be contaminated are fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water. In the United States, chlorination of water kills Hepatitis A virus that enters the water supply.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination with the Hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccination is recommended for all children, for travelers to certain countries, and for people at high risk for infection with the virus. Frequent handwashing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food can help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A.
What is the Hepatitis A vaccine?
The Hepatitis A vaccine is a shot of inactive Hepatitis A virus that stimulates the body's natural immune system. After the vaccine is given, the body makes antibodies that protect a person against the virus. An antibody is a substance found in the blood that is produced in response to a virus invading the body. These antibodies are then stored in the body and will fight off the infection if a person is exposed to the virus in the future.
Who should get vaccinated against Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for:
- All children at age 1 year
- Travelers to countries that have high rates of Hepatitis A
- Men who have sexual contact with other men
- Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs
- People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
- People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates
- People who work with Hepatitis A infected animals or in a Hepatitis A research laboratory
For more information, please call our office at 307-789-9203 or 307-787-3800 in the Bridger Valley.
Other information links:
Fact Sheet-Hep A
Fact Sheet for Gay or Bisexual Men