Hepatitis A is a liver disease that is easily spread from person to person (highly contagious). It is caused by the hepatitis A virus.
Hepatitis is a redness or swelling (inflammation) of the liver that sometimes causes lasting damage. Hepatitis A is one type of hepatitis.
In most cases, hepatitis A does not cause a long-term or chronic infection. But it can take some time to fully get well. You may be sick for a few weeks, but it may take up to 6 months to fully recover.
In some cases hepatitis A can cause severe liver damage.
What causes hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is usually spread when the virus is taken in by mouth. This happens when you have contact with objects, food, or drinks that are contaminated by the stool of an infected person.
This may happen through person to person contact such as:
This can also happen if you:
In rare cases, the virus may also be spread by contamination from blood and other body fluids (blood-borne infection).
In most cases, normal contact in school or at work won't spread the virus.
Who is at risk for hepatitis A?
You may be at high risk for hepatitis A if you travel to places where the virus is common. These places include:
You may also be at high risk if you:
Hepatitis A is sometimes called a traveler's disease. It is a very common disease for travelers. But you can also get infected with hepatitis A in the U.S. In some cases people in the U.S. have gotten the virus without having any risk factors.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?
Symptoms of hepatitis A often look like flu symptoms. Each person's symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:
Some adults have no symptoms. Most children have no symptoms, especially children under 6 years old.
Hepatitis A symptoms can look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
How is hepatitis A diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will give you a physical exam and ask about your past health.
A blood test called IgM anti-HAV is needed to be sure you have hepatitis A. This test looks for any infection-fighting cells (antibodies) you may have against the hepatitis A virus in your blood. If these antibodies are in your blood, that means you have had an infection.
How is hepatitis A treated?
Your healthcare provider will create a care plan for you based on:
Most people with hepatitis A get better without any medical care. In some cases bed rest and some medicines may be needed.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms don't go away as soon as expected. Also call if your symptoms go away and then come back.
Hepatitis is a redness and swelling (inflammation) of the liver. It sometimes causes permanent liver damage.
There are several types of hepatitis. In hepatitis B, the liver is infected with the hepatitis B virus. This causes inflammation. The liver isn't able to work the way it should.
The liver is a large organ that lies up under the ribs on the right side of your belly (abdomen). It helps filter waste from your body, makes a fluid called bile to help digest food, and stores sugar that your body uses for energy.
In the U.S., hepatitis B is one of the most common diseases that can be prevented with a vaccine.
Hepatitis B can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). It tends to become chronic most often in infants and young children, and less often in people infected as adults.
What causes hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus. People pass the hepatitis B virus to each other. This happens when you come into contact with another person's infected:
Common ways this virus is spread are through:
Babies may also get the disease if their mother has the virus. Infected children can spread the virus to other children if they play together often or if a child has many scrapes or cuts. But body fluids need to come in contact to spread the virus. So just playing next to a friend will not give someone hepatitis B.
Who is at risk for hepatitis B?
Anyone can get hepatitis B by coming into contact with the blood or body fluids of someone who is infected with hepatitis B.
Some people are at higher risk for getting hepatitis B. They include:
Pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis B.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B has a wide range of symptoms. It may be mild, without symptoms, or it may cause chronic hepatitis. In some cases, hepatitis B can lead to liver failure and death.
Each person's symptoms may vary. The most common symptoms of hepatitis B include:
The symptoms of hepatitis B may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
How is hepatitis B diagnosed?
To see if you have hepatitis B, your healthcare provider will give you a physical exam and do a blood test.
If your healthcare provider suspects chronic hepatitis B, he or she may take a small tissue sample (biopsy) from your liver with a needle. These samples are checked under a microscope to find out the type of liver disease and how severe it is. An ultrasound test is usually done as well to see if the liver looks very diseased.
How is hepatitis B treated?
Hepatitis B is not treated unless it becomes a long-term (chronic) infection. Then medicines are used to try to slow down or stop the virus from damaging the liver. Most people get medicines they can take by mouth (orally). But some people get an injection. The decision to treat is complicated and based on many things. These include test results and how advanced your disease is.
Your symptoms will be closely watched and managed as needed. If severe liver damage occurs, you may need a liver transplant.
There is no cure for hepatitis B. Treatment is helpful to decrease the amount of virus in your blood and decrease risk of complications.