Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver where the liver becomes inflamed, tender, and swollen. The virus can be spread by contact with infected bowel movements. An infected person may pass hepatitis A to others by not washing his/her hands, especially after using the bathroom. You might get the virus from:

  • Food handled by an infected person
  • Water contaminated with sewage
  • Shellfish taken from contaminated waters.
Symptoms usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after you are infected with the virus. Hepatitis A is sometimes so mild that there are no obvious symptoms. If you have symptoms, the illness usually begins with flu-like symptoms, including:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • General aching
  • Tiredness
The usual treatment is rest and avoiding alcohol for at least 6 months. You will not have to stay in the hospital unless you have a very serious case. Antibiotics are not useful in treating hepatitis A.

Recovery from hepatitis A usually takes 4 to 8 weeks. The disease rarely has lasting effects such as permanent liver damage. Hepatitis that lasts more than 6 months usually is not caused by a hepatitis A infection.

Hepatitis A can be spread only by people with active infections. It is usually contagious for 2 to 3 weeks before symptoms appear and for 2 to 3 weeks afterward. During this time, others can contract the virus by touching anything contaminated with the bowel movements of the infected person.