Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A (HAV) is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness. HAV is normally transmitted from person to person by the faecal-oral route. Unlike hepatitis B and hepatitis C, HAV does not cause chronic living disease. It can also be spread by contaminated waste, infected food and direct contact with an infectious person.

Most people recover from HAV. A small number of infected people die from fulminant hepatitis. link

Common causes of Hepatitis A

  • Poor sanitation and hygiene.
  • Lack of safe water
  • Outbreaks amongst men having sex with men
  • Outbreaks amongst people who inject drugs
  • Outbreaks can be prolonged and cause considerable economic loss.

Prevention of Hepatitis A

HAV can be avoided by using a safe water supply, food safety, improved sanitation and hand washing. Infection rates are low in high-income countries with good sanitary and hygienic conditions.

Anyone who has not been vaccinated or previously infected can get infected with HAV. In areas where the virus is widespread (high endemicity), most HAV infections occur during early childhood.

You cannot catch HAV from breastfeeding, sneezing, hugging or casual contact.


The incubation period of HAV is around 14–28 days. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include:

  • fever
  • malaise
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea
  • abdominal discomfort
  • dark colour urine and jaundice

Symptoms of HAV range from mild to severe, and can include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-coloured urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). Not everyone who is infected will have all of the symptoms.


Testing for HAV involves a blood test that examines for the body’s reaction to the infection.

Treatment is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids that are lost from vomiting and diarrhoea. Acetaminophen, paracetamol and medication against vomiting should not be given.

Partners or any new partners should be tested and vaccinated against HAV before having sex link


A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent HAV. It is advised that people travelling to countries with high incidences of men having sex with men and people who inject drugs should receive the HAV vaccine.