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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A Facts

Hepatitis A infection is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A can range in severity. It can be a mild illness lasting a few weeks, or it can be a severe illness lasting several months. Vaccines are available at our Immunization Clinic.

How is Hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A Facts

Hepatitis A can be spread in several ways:

  • By eating food contaminated by a person not washing their hands after using the bathroom. Both uncooked and cooked foods may be contaminated.
  • From sharing meals or housing, sexual contact, or sharing injection drug equipment with a person who has hepatitis A.
  • By drinking contaminated water, though this is rare in the United States.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Some people, particularly young children usually do not show symptoms. Symptoms usually occur suddenly. They can include the following:
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Yellow skin and/or eyes (jaundice) 

Who should I contact if I develop symptoms or if I believe I have been in close personal contact with a person who has hepatitis A?

Seek care urgently from your primary care provider or from an emergency department.

What treatment options are available?

If you have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus within the last 14 days and have not been vaccinated against it, you might benefit from either immune globulin or hepatitis A vaccine.

How can I prevent the spread of Hepatitis A?

Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing or eating food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Vaccination can protect you and others from getting hepatitis A.

What is the difference between Hepatitis A, B and C?

There are three common types of hepatitis (A, B and C). Each type is caused by a different virus, and each type of hepatitis affects the liver differently. Having multiple types of hepatitis at the same time can make symptoms worse.

  • Hepatitis A is spread by eating food or water contaminated with invisible amounts of feces. A vaccine can prevent hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis B is spread through sexual contact, or by sharing needles or works. A vaccine can prevent hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis C is spread through sexual contact, or by sharing needles or works. There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C.

Having one type of viral hepatitis in the past does not protect a person from getting other types.

Sources: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Denver Public Health

Page last updated March 2018