Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that between 125,000 and 200,000 people are infected with hepatitis A each year in the United States. Between 84,000 to 134,000 of of those people will show symptoms of hepatitis A virus (HAV). Each year, approximately 100 people will die because of hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A can easily spread among young children in day care settings because many are in diapers and cannot wash their own hands, and no one may know they have the disease since children normally do not have symptoms.
Hepatitis A has on rare occasions been transmitted through blood transfusion, use of blood products or sharing needles or other injecting equipment contaminated with HAV-infected blood. Transmission by blood is rare because the presence of virus in the blood occurs with the onset of infection and is not thought to be present long.
- Low-grade fever
- Malaise (feeling of ill-health)
- Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal discomfort
- Dark-colored urine
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Children under 6 years of age seldom develop symptoms, although some may experience diarrhea.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hepatitis A vaccination for:
- All children
- Men who have sex with men
- Illegal drug users
Others recommended for hepatitis A vaccine:
- Anyone traveling to an area with a high prevalence of hepatitis A
- Those with hepatitis B or C
- Abstinence (not having sex)
- Mutual monogamy (having sex with only one uninfected partner)
- Cut-up non-lubricated latex condoms or use of other moisture barriers, such as household plastic wrap or dams (square pieces of latex) can reduce the risk of transmitting HAV during oral-anal sex.
Non-Sexual Prevention: Other ways to prevent hepatitis A:
- Avoid sharing drug needles and other drug-injection equipment.
- Avoid contaminated food or water sources
- Practicing good personal hygiene, especially hand-washing after using the toilet or changing diapers
- To inactivate HAV, heat foods at temperatures above 185 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 minute or disinfect surfaces with a 1:100 dilution of household bleach in tap water (1 part bleach for 100 parts of water)
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Viral Hepatitis Division and National Immunization Program
- Hepatitis Foundation International
- American Liver Foundation
- Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)
- Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKID)
Hepatitis for Men
en who have sex with men (MSM), compared the population as a whole, are at increased risk of getting hepatitis A and B. However, there are safe and effective vaccines available for both hepatitis A and B. Learn more about hepatitis risks and prevention, take a risk assessment and take a quiz to check your knowledge at ASHA’s hepatitis website for men.