Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by the highly contagious hepatitis A virus.

Causes of Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is usually transmitted by some of the following:

  • Eating contaminated food or water
  • Close contact with either the stool or the blood of an infected person
  • Sexual relations with an infected person
  • Sharing needles
  • Traveling to an undeveloped country

While hepatitis A is not usually serious, certain measures are recommended to prevent this infection.

Risk Factors of Hepatitis A

Risk factors for developing hepatitis A may include the following:

  • International travel
  • Close proximity to an infected person
  • Drug use
  • Unprotected sexual relations
  • Living or working in a nursing home
  • Child care providers
  • Health care workers

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

Symptoms of hepatitis A can vary from none at all to severe, with most cases lasting for one to two months. Symptoms usually appear two to six weeks after exposure. Common symptoms of hepatitis A may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice

Diagnosis of Hepatitis A

For patients experiencing symptoms of hepatitis A, the doctor may perform blood tests to measure antibodies in the blood and liver enzyme levels. A special blood test may also be performed to determine the type of hepatitis present.

Treatment of Hepatitis A

Most people do not require treatment for hepatitis A. The infection will usually resolve on its own within a month or two. Recommended treatment for patients with hepatitis A includes:

  • Rest
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Restricting fats in the diet
  • Avoiding medication that is toxic to the liver

Certain options are available for relieving symptoms of the infection based on the severity of the condition.

Prevention of Hepatitis A

There is a vaccination for hepatitis A that is recommended for all children and people at high risk for infection. This has greatly decreased the occurrence of hepatitis A. You can also help prevent this condition by some of the following prevention methods:

  • Practicing safe sex
  • Regularly washing hands when preparing food or eating
  • Washing hands after changing a diaper or using the toilet
  • Using bottled water while traveling to a developing country

Additional Resources


Virginia Cleaver, PharmD, M.S. in PGPM, RPh, CPh

Virginia Cleaver is a clinical pharmacist with experience working in retail, mail-order pharmacy, institutional and managed care environments. She is an analytical, detail-oriented expert with in-depth knowledge of pharmacovigilanc

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