Hepatitis A (HAV, Hep A)

Hepatitis Pictures Slideshow: What Puts You at Risk

Hepatitis A facts*

*Hepatitis A facts medical author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

  • Hepatitis A is an inflammatory disease of the liver caused by a virus.
  • The liver stores nutrients and vitamins, helps digest foods, helps prevent infections, and helps remove harmful substances from blood.
  • Hepatitis A viruses cause the disease termed hepatitis A
  • People at higher risk to be infected with hepatitis A virus include those that use illegal drugs, men who have sex with men, people who live with individuals that have the disease, and people who travel to developing countries.
  • Hepatitis A virus can be transmitted to others by contaminated stools (feces), foods prepared by an infected person, contaminated water, and close personal contact (for example, touching hands, sex), with an infected person but not by sneezing, cough, hugging (without skin contact) or by being near an infected person.
  • Some young infected individuals may have no symptoms. In other infected individuals symptoms of hepatitis A may include flu-like symptoms such as tiredness, stomach discomfort, fever, decreased appetite, and diarrhea; light-colored stools; more specific symptoms include dark yellow urine, and jaundice (white of eyes and skin become yellowish).
  • Hepatitis A is diagnosed by commonly available blood tests
  • Hepatitis A resolves in most patients in a few weeks without treatment; a doctor may prescribe medications to reduce symptoms.
  • Hepatitis A vaccine can help protect against the disease; two shots are required, but some protection begins even after the first shot; the shots do not protect individuals against other hepatitis-causing viruses (types B, C and others).
  • Hepatitis A immune globulin may protect some people if administered shortly after initial exposure to the virus; research is ongoing to produce other treatments

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a virus, or infection, that causes liver disease and inflammation of the liver. Viruses can cause sickness. For example, the flu is caused by a virus. People can pass viruses to each other.

Inflammation is swelling that occurs when tissues of the body become injured or infected. Inflammation can cause organs to not work properly.

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