HepatitisA is a liverinfection caused by a virus that's spread in the poo of an infected person.

It's uncommon in the UK,but certaingroups are at increased risk. This includes travellers to parts of the world with poor levels of sanitation, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs.

Hepatitis Acan be unpleasant, but it's notusually serious andmost people make a full recovery within a couple of months.

Some people, particularly young children, may not have any symptoms. Buthepatitis Acan occasionally last for many months and, in rare cases, it canbe life-threatening ifit causesthe liver to stop working properly (liver failure).

A hepatitis A vaccine is available for people at a high risk of infection.

This page covers:

Symptoms of hepatitis A

When to get medical advice

How you can gethepatitis A

Vaccination againsthepatitis A

Treatments for hepatitis A

Outlook for hepatitis A

Symptoms of hepatitis A

The symptoms of hepatitis A develop, on average, around four weeks after becoming infected, although not everyone will experience them.

Symptoms can include:

  • feelingtiredand generallyunwell
  • joint and muscle pain
  • ahigh temperature (fever)
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling or being sick
  • pain in the upper-right part of your tummy
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • dark urine and pale stools
  • itchy skin

The symptoms will usually pass within a couple of months.

How you can get hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is most widespread in parts of the worldwhere standards of sanitation and food hygiene are generally poor, such as parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinent,the Far East, the Middle East, and Central and South America.

You can get the infection from:

  • eating foodprepared by someone with the infection who hasn't washed their hands properly or washed them in water contaminated with sewage
  • drinking contaminated water (including ice cubes)
  • eating raw or undercooked shellfishfromcontaminated water
  • close contact with someone who has hepatitis A
  • less commonly, having sex with someone who has the infection (this is particularly a risk formen who have sex with men) or injecting drugs using contaminated equipment

Someonewith hepatitis A is most infectious from around two weeks before their symptoms appear until about a week after the symptoms first develop.

It's only recommended for people at an increased risk, including:

  • close contacts of someone with hepatitis A
  • peopleplanning to travel to or live in parts of the world where hepatitis A is widespread , particularly if levels of sanitation and food hygiene are expected to be poor
  • people withany type of long-term (chronic) liver disease
  • men who have sex with other men
  • people who inject illegal drugs
  • people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job this includessewage workers, staff ofinstitutions where levels of personal hygiene may be poor (such as a homeless shelter) and people working withmonkeys, apes and gorillas

The hepatitis Avaccine is usually available for free on the NHS for anyone whoneeds it.

You can usually look after yourself at home.

While you're ill, it's a good idea to:

  • get plenty of rest
  • take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen for any aches and painsask your GP for advice about this, as you may need to take lower doses than normal or avoid certain medications until you've recovered
  • maintain a cool, well-ventilated environment, wear loose clothing, and avoidhot baths or showers to reduce any itching
  • eat smaller, lighter meals to help reduce nausea and vomiting
  • avoid alcoholto reduce the strain on your liver
  • stay off work or school and avoid having sex until at least a week after yourjaundice or other symptoms started
  • practise good hygiene measures, such aswashing your hands with soap and water regularly

Speak to your GP if your symptoms are particularly troublesome or haven't started to improve within a couple of months. Theycan prescribe medications to help with itchiness, nausea or vomiting, if necessary.

Outlook for hepatitis A

Formost people, hepatitis A will pass within two months and there will be no long-term effects. Once it passes, you normally develop life-long immunity against the virus.

For around1 in every7 people with the infection, the symptoms may come and go for up to6 months before eventually passing.

Life-threatening complications such as liver failure are rare, affecting less than 1 in every 250 people with hepatitis A. People most at risk include those with pre-existing liverproblems andelderly people.

If liver failure does occur, a liver transplant is usually needed to treat it.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Nov 2016