is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a
contagious liver disease.
is the infectious agent that causes hepatitis A?
infection is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A virus is
passed in the stool of infected persons. Unlike many other viruses, it
can survive for a long time at room temperature in food and on
surfaces and objects. The virus is not affected by cold or by
freezing, but it is inactivated by heating foods to >185o
F (85o C) for one minute. Adequate chlorination of water
also kills the hepatitis A virus.
is hepatitis A found?
infection occurs worldwide. The disease is common in Africa, Asia
(except Japan), parts of the Caribbean, Central and South America,
Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Middle East. In the
United States, hepatitis A occurs in isolated cases, in outbreaks, and
in widespread epidemics.
do people get hepatitis A infection?
Hepatitis A virus
is usually spread from person to person. People get hepatitis A
infection by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated
with the stool of an infected person. For this reason, the virus is
more easily spread in places with poor sanitary conditions or in
places where people are not careful about washing their hands.
hepatitis A can also spread the virus to household members and to sex
partners. In rare cases, people have been infected after getting a
transfusion of infected blood. Outbreaks of hepatitis A have also
occurred among illegal drug users. The virus is not spread by casual
contact, as in the usual work or school setting.
Because the virus
can live in the environment for a long time, people can also get
hepatitis A by:
contaminated water or ice
raw or undercooked shellfish harvested from sewage-contaminated
raw fruits, vegetables, or other foods that were contaminated
during growing, harvesting, processing, or handling
cooked foods that were contaminated after cooking
are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A?
with hepatitis A virus often have no symptoms. Most adults have
symptoms that develop over several days. Symptoms include:
vomiting, or stomach ache
(yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
If symptoms do
occur, they usually last less than 2 months, although 10% to 15% of
persons have prolonged or relapsing disease that can last up to 6
soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
The average time
between exposure to the virus and the development of symptoms is about
28 days. Signs of illness usually begin abruptly. Infected persons
with no symptoms can still spread the virus. This often happens with
young children who unknowingly spread hepatitis A virus to older
children and adults.
is hepatitis A diagnosed?
Hepatitis A can
be diagnosed by a blood test called IgM anti-HAV.
is at risk for hepatitis A?
Anyone who has
not already been infected with hepatitis A virus can become infected,
but some people are at increased risk:
who share a household or have sexual contact with someone who is
infected with hepatitis A virus
and staff in child-care centers (especially centers where children
are in diapers) where someone has hepatitis A virus infection
to countries where hepatitis A is common and where proper sewage
disposal and clean water, food, and sanitation are not available
and staff of institutions for developmentally disabled persons
where someone has hepatitis A
who have sex with men
who use street drugs
who handle animals infected with hepatitis A virus or who work
with hepatitis A virus in a research laboratory
with clotting factor disorders who receive injections of factor
complications can result from hepatitis A?
types of hepatitis, such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C, hepatitis A
causes no long-lasting liver damage. Deaths from hepatitis A infection
is the treatment for hepatitis A?
There is no
treatment for hepatitis A infection. People usually recover on their
own after 2 or 3 weeks of bed rest. Having had the disease produces
lifelong protection against future hepatitis A virus infection.
common is hepatitis A?
In the United
States, about 180,000 persons become infected with hepatitis A virus
yearly, most from person-to-person contact. Outbreaks occur
periodically in many American Indian, Alaska native, Pacific Islander,
and some religious communities. These outbreaks occur mainly among
can hepatitis A be prevented?
1. Hepatitis A
vaccine provides long-term protection. The vaccine is licensed for use
in persons 2 years of age and older. It must be given before exposure
to the hepatitis A virus. Two shots are needed for long-term
vaccine is recommended for:
who travel to or work in areas where hepatitis A is common. The
first dose should be given at least 4 weeks before travel.
living in communities with high rates of hepatitis A, such as
Alaska native villages, American Indian reservations, and Pacific
Islander and some religious communities
who have sex with men
who use street drugs
with chronic liver disease
with clotting factor disorders, such as hemophilia
who work with animals infected with hepatitis A virus or who work
with hepatitis A virus in a research setting
The vaccine is
not recommended for children under age 2. Immune globulin is
recommended in this age group for short-term protection.
2. To prevent
person-to-person spread, good personal hygiene and proper sanitation
are important. Always wash hands with soap and warm water after using
the toilet and changing a diaper and before eating or preparing food.
Immune globulin is recommended for short-term prevention against
hepatitis A in all age groups. Immune globulin is a sterile
preparation of antibodies. Immune globulin shots can lower the risk of
disease in close contacts, household members, and sex partners of
infected persons. However, immune globulin must be given within 2
weeks of exposure to hepatitis A virus, and protection lasts only 3 to
5 months, depending on the dosage. Immune globulin is currently in