Skip to Content

  • Print
 
E-mail Form
Email Results

 
 
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Preventing hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. You can take several steps to prevent catching or spreading the virus.

Handwashing

To reduce your risk of spreading or catching the hepatitis A virus:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom and when you come in contact with an infected person's blood, stools, or other bodily fluid.
  • Avoid unclean food and water.

The virus may spread quickly through day care centers and other places where people are in close contact. To prevent outbreaks, wash hands well before and after each diaper change, before serving food, and after using the restroom.

Avoid unclean food and water

You should take the following precautions:

  • Avoid raw shellfish.
  • Beware of sliced fruit that may have been washed in contaminated water. Travelers should peel all fresh fruits and vegetables themselves.
  • DO NOT buy food from street vendors.
  • Use only carbonated bottled water for brushing teeth and drinking in areas where the water may be unsafe. (Remember that ice cubes can carry infection.)
  • If no water is available, boiling water is the best method for eliminating hepatitis A. Bringing the water to a full boil for at least 1 minute generally makes it safe to drink.
  • Heated food should be hot to the touch and eaten right away.

If you are Exposed

If you were recently exposed to hepatitis A and have not had hepatitis A before, or have not received the hepatitis A vaccine series, ask your health care provider about receiving a hepatitis A immune globulin shot.

Common reasons why you may need to receive this shot include:

  • You live with someone who has hepatitis A.
  • You recently had sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A.
  • You recently shared illegal drugs, either injected or non-injected, with someone who has hepatitis A.
  • You have had close personal contact over a period of time with someone who has hepatitis A.
  • You have eaten in a restaurant where food or food handlers were infected or contaminated with hepatitis A.

You will likely get the hepatitis A vaccine at the same time you receive the immune globulin shot.

Vaccines

Vaccines are available to protect against hepatitis A infection. Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all children older than age 1.

The vaccine begins to protect 4 weeks after you receive the first dose. A 6- to 12-month booster is required for long-term protection.

People who are at higher risk for hepatitis A and should receive the vaccine include:

  • People who use recreational, injectable drugs
  • Health care and laboratory workers who may come in contact with the virus
  • People who have chronic liver disease
  • People who receive clotting factor concentrate to treat hemophilia or other clotting disorders
  • Military personnel
  • Men who have sex with other men
  • Caretakers in day care centers, long-term nursing homes, and other facilities
  • Dialysis patients and workers in dialysis centers

Travelers

People who work or travel in areas where hepatitis A is common should be vaccinated. These areas include:

  • Africa
  • Asia (except Japan)
  • The Mediterranean
  • Eastern Europe
  • The Middle East
  • Central and South America
  • Mexico
  • Parts of the Caribbean

If you are traveling to these areas in fewer than 4 weeks after your first shot, you may not be fully protected by the vaccine. You can also get a preventive dose of immunoglobulin (IG).

References

Kroger AT, Pickering LK, Mawle A, Hinman AR, Orenstein WA. Immunization. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 316.

Kim DK, Hunter P. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Recommended Immunization schedule for adults aged 19 years or older - United States, 2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68(5):115-118. PMID: 30730868 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30730868.

Pawlotsky JM. Acute viral hepatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2020:chap 139.

Robinson CL, Bernstein H, Romero JR, Szilagyi P. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Recommended Immunization schedule for children and adolescents aged 18 years or younger - United States, 2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68(5):112-114. PMID: 30730870 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30730870.

Sjogren MH, Bassett JT. Hepatitis A. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 78.

  • Hepatitis A

    Animation

  •  

    Hepatitis A - Animation

    If you have noticed lately you feel weak and itch, have a loss of appetite, dark urine, and a low-grade fever, you may be suffering from symptoms of hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is irritation and swelling of the liver from infection with the hepatitis A virus. The virus is usually found in the stools and blood of an infected person. You can catch hepatitis A if you eat or drink food or water contaminated by feces containing the virus. Fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water are common culprits. You can also catch the disease if you come into contact with the blood or stool of a person who has hepatitis A, when a person who has the disease and doesn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom touches other objects or food, or if you have sex that involves oral to anal contact. Risk factors also include international travel, especially to Asia or South or Central America, IV drug use, living in a nursing home, or working in a health care, food, or sewage industry. So, what do you do about hepatitis A? Symptoms will show up about two to six weeks after you are exposed to the virus. As stated, you may well have dark urine, feel weak, have itching, a loss of appetite, a low-grade fever, feel nauseous, and have yellowish skin. The symptoms are usually mild, but they may last for up to several months. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may discover that you have an enlarged, tender liver. Blood tests can confirm you have hepatitis A. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Your doctor will recommend that you rest when your symptoms are at their worst. You should also avoid alcohol and anything else that is toxic to the liver, such as acetaminophen, or Tylenol. Keep in mind that eating fatty foods may cause you to vomit, because your liver helps process fats from your body. The good news is the hepatitis A virus does not remain in your body after the infection has gone, but you do need to maintain good bathroom habits to keep from spreading the disease. Typically, you will recover in about three months, but some people do need six months to get better. If you have recently been exposed to hepatitis A and have not had hepatitis A before or have not received the hepatitis A vaccine series, ask your doctor or nurse about receiving either immune globulin or the hepatitis A vaccine.

  • Hepatitis A

    Animation

  •  

    Hepatitis A - Animation

    If you have noticed lately you feel weak and itch, have a loss of appetite, dark urine, and a low-grade fever, you may be suffering from symptoms of hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is irritation and swelling of the liver from infection with the hepatitis A virus. The virus is usually found in the stools and blood of an infected person. You can catch hepatitis A if you eat or drink food or water contaminated by feces containing the virus. Fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water are common culprits. You can also catch the disease if you come into contact with the blood or stool of a person who has hepatitis A, when a person who has the disease and doesn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom touches other objects or food, or if you have sex that involves oral to anal contact. Risk factors also include international travel, especially to Asia or South or Central America, IV drug use, living in a nursing home, or working in a health care, food, or sewage industry. So, what do you do about hepatitis A? Symptoms will show up about two to six weeks after you are exposed to the virus. As stated, you may well have dark urine, feel weak, have itching, a loss of appetite, a low-grade fever, feel nauseous, and have yellowish skin. The symptoms are usually mild, but they may last for up to several months. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may discover that you have an enlarged, tender liver. Blood tests can confirm you have hepatitis A. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Your doctor will recommend that you rest when your symptoms are at their worst. You should also avoid alcohol and anything else that is toxic to the liver, such as acetaminophen, or Tylenol. Keep in mind that eating fatty foods may cause you to vomit, because your liver helps process fats from your body. The good news is the hepatitis A virus does not remain in your body after the infection has gone, but you do need to maintain good bathroom habits to keep from spreading the disease. Typically, you will recover in about three months, but some people do need six months to get better. If you have recently been exposed to hepatitis A and have not had hepatitis A before or have not received the hepatitis A vaccine series, ask your doctor or nurse about receiving either immune globulin or the hepatitis A vaccine.

    Self Care

     
     

    Review Date: 7/13/2019

    Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
    adam.com

     
     
     

     

     

    A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
    Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.