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What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver that can cause mild to severe illness. It is caused by the virus HAV. It is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water or direct contact with an infectious person. Almost everyone recovers fully from hepatitis A with lifelong immunity. However, a very small proportion of people infected with hepatitis A could die from fulminant hepatitis.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Jaundice
  • Belly pain
  • Dark urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Pale-colored poop
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

According to the WHO, 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A occur around the world each year.

Hepatitis A Causes

You can catch the disease by drinking water or eating food that’s been contaminated by someone with the virus. You can also get hepatitis A if you:

  • Eat fruits, vegetables, or other foods handled or prepared by a person who has the virus.
  • Eat raw shellfish harvested from the water where the virus lives.
  • Swallow contaminated ice.
  • Have sex with someone who has it.
  • Touch your mouth after touching a contaminated object.


It virus is transmitted primarily by the fecal-oral route; that is when an uninfected person ingests food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person. In families, this may happen through dirty hands when an infected person prepares food for family members. Waterborne outbreaks, though infrequent, are usually associated with sewage-contaminated or inadequately treated water.

The virus can also be transmitted through close physical contact such as oral-anal sex with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.

Hepatitis A

Prevention of Hepatitis A

  • The vaccine is the best thing to prevent.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before and after handling food, and after changing a diaper.
  • When you travel to a place with poor sanitation, don’t drink tap water or eat raw food.