Hepatitis A virus is a liver infection that can be prevented with a safe, effective vaccine. It is very contagious and can cause liver disease lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting months. Rarely, it causes death.
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly swallows the virus from objects, food, or drinks that are contaminated by small, unseeable amounts of feces (poop) from an infected person. It also spreads through close contact with an infected person, such as during sex or while caring for someone who is sick with hepatitis.
Hepatitis A used to be mostly linked with contaminated food or drink, and people still get sick this way. But there have been outbreaks across the United States in recent years among people experiencing homelessness, people experiencing substance use issues, and men who have sexual contact with men. It is especially important for these groups to know about hepatitis A and get vaccinated.
How to prevent hepatitis A
Get a hepatitis A vaccination
Children are usually vaccinated between 12 and 23 months of age, but most adults have not been vaccinated. Get vaccinated if you:
Are experiencing homelessness.
Are experiencing substance use issues.
Are a man who has sexual contact with men.
Live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis A.
Have a chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
Are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common.
Are being treated with clotting-factor concentrates.
Have not been vaccinated before and want to be protected against hepatitis A.
Wash your hands frequently, and don’t share personal items
Good sanitation also is important in preventing hepatitis A spread. In addition to getting vaccinated:
Wash your hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom and before eating or making food.
Don’t have sex with anyone who has hepatitis A.
Don’t share towels, toothbrushes, eating utensils, food, drinks, smokes, or drug “works” with others.
Hepatitis A symptoms
If you have hepatitis A, you may not know it for two to six weeks after you got it, and you could spread it to others during that time. That’s why vaccination is so important. Symptoms include yellow skin and eyes, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark pee, and light-colored poop. If you think you might have hepatitis A, contact a health care provider as soon as you can.
If you have more questions about hepatitis A, call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 for answers in English and Spanish. You also can email them at COHELP@RMPDC.org or read the information on the CDC hepatitis A web page.