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Hepatitis A

Page last updated 01/04/2024.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection that can affect the liver.

How is Hepatitis A Transmitted (Spread)?

The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. The hepatitis A virus is spread when someone ingests the virus (even in amounts too small to see) through:

  • Person-to-person contact: Hepatitis A can spread from close, personal contact with an infected person, such as through certain types of sexual contact, caring for someone who is ill, using drugs with others, or sharing utensils. Hepatitis A is very contagious. People can spread the virus before they even feel sick.
  • Eating contaminated food or drink: Although uncommon, foodborne outbreaks have occurred in the United States from people eating contaminated fresh and frozen imported food and drinking contaminated water supply.

What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis A?

Not everyone with hepatitis A has symptoms. If symptoms develop, they usually appear 2 to 7 weeks after infection. Symptoms usually last less than 2 months, although some people can be ill for as long as 6 months.

Symptoms can include:

  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Upset stomach
  • Throwing up
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever
  • Dark urine or light-colored stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Feeling tired

How Is Hepatitis A Diagnosed?

A doctor can determine if you have hepatitis A by discussing your symptoms and ordering a blood test that can tell whether or not you have been recently infected with the Hepatitis A virus.

How Is Hepatitis A Treated?

Doctors usually recommend rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids. Some people with severe symptoms will need medical care in a hospital. 

How Can Hepatitis A Be Prevented?

  • The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through hepatitis A vaccine. Hepatitis A infection after exposure to the virus can be prevented with Hepatitis A vaccination (post-exposure prophylaxis).
    • The Hepatitis A vaccine is 2 doses given 6 months apart.
    •  All children and adolescents 2–18 years of age who have not previously received the vaccine should be vaccinated.
    • Adults who were not vaccinated previously and want to be protected against hepatitis A can also get the vaccine.
  • Practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food, plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.

Where can I get the Hepatitis A vaccine?

  • Contact your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, contact 2-1-1.
  • Immunization services are available throughout San Diego County at our six Public Health Center Locations. Please visit our Immunization Clinic Locations for clinic hours of operation. We recommend calling the site you plan to visit to confirm current hours and immunization availability. 

What Should I Do if I Think I Have Been Exposed to Hepatitis A?

  • Call your healthcare provider as soon as possible, ideally within 2 weeks of exposure. A healthcare provider can decide next steps based on your age and overall health.
  • If you do not have a healthcare provider, contact 2-1-1.

Resources

Disinfection/Sanitation

County of San Diego

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention