Hepatitis A



Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that is found in the stool of infected people. The virus can pass to the hands after using the bathroom. It can then spread from the hands to other objects or food. Washing hands after using the bathroom will remove the virus from the hands and stop the spread of virus.

The virus may also be spread through:

  • Drinking water that has had contact with raw sewage
  • Food that has the virus—more likely when food is not cooked well
  • Raw or partly cooked shellfish that has had contact with raw sewage
  • Sexual contact with someone with the virus—especially with oral-anal contact

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of hepatitis A are:

  • Having close contact with an infected person
  • Oral-anal sexual contact with an infected person
  • Travel to or time spent in a country where:
  • Hepatitis A is common
  • Sanitation is poor
  • Having unstable housing
  • Working in a lab that works with the hepatitis A virus
  • Working as a childcare worker—who changes diapers or does toilet training
  • Being in an institution, jail, or prison
  • Using illegal drugs



Hepatitis A does not always cause symptoms. When present, symptoms may be:

  • Tiredness
  • Loss of hunger
  • Fever
  • Belly pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Dark colored urine (pee)
  • Loose or light colored stools (poop)
  • Rash


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect hepatitis based on symptoms. Blood tests can confirm hepatitis A. The blood tests can also show how well the liver is working.



Hepatitis A often goes away on its own within 2 months. There are no lasting effects in most people once the infection passes. People who have the virus and recover will be protected from future infection.

The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms by getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and eating healthful foods. Steps should also be taken to protect the liver, such as avoiding alcohol and certain medicines.

Some infections can be severe but this is very rare. A liver transplant may be needed for these infections.


To help lower the risk of hepatitis A:

  • Wash hands often, especially before eating or handling food.
  • Do not share glasses or eating utensils with someone who may be infected.
  • Avoid sexual contact with a person with hepatitis A until they are cured.
  • Avoid injected drug use. Do not share needles.
  • If traveling to a high risk region:
    • Use bottled water for drinking, cooking, washing food, and brushing teeth.
    • Do not use ice chips.
    • Eat well cooked food.

Some people may have a higher risk of infection. A doctor may suggest:

  • Immune (Gamma) Globulin—offers protection against hepatitis A for 3 to 6 months when given before contact with the virus or within 2 weeks of contact
  • Hepatitis A vaccine—creates full protection 4 weeks after the first shot. A second shot will improve long-term protection.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.