Hepatitis A

Last updated: October 12, 2022

What is hepatitis A?

It is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV).

How do you get it?

Hepatitis A is most often spread by exposure to an infected person’s stool (the virus can live in dry stool). HAV may be spread from soiled hands, contaminated food and/or water, diaper changing tables and anal-oral contact. The virus may also be found in shellfish taken from waters contaminated with sewage.

Who is at risk of getting hepatitis A?

  • People who travel to or work in other countries where HAV is common
  • People who eat food contaminated with the virus
  • Children who go to day care
  • People who work in a day care
  • Men who have sex with men
  • IV drug users who share needles

Many people infected with hepatitis A, especially toddlers, have no symptoms. Symptoms to look for:

  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea or light colored stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Urine that is dark in color, like the color of tea

How to keep from getting hepatitis A:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet, after changing diapers and before eating or cooking.
  • Do not share needles for injecting drugs.
  • Avoid eating raw shellfish.
  • Use latex condoms every time you have oral, anal or vaginal sex.
  • Ask your doctor if you should receive the hepatitis A vaccine.
  • Consult your doctor if someone you live with or have sex with is jaundiced (has yellow skin).

People infected with hepatitis B or C should get the hepatitis A vaccine.

If you think you may have hepatitis A, let your doctor know. You may need to have the doctor test your blood. If you do have hepatitis A, any household or close contacts will need to receive an immune globulin shot or a vaccine for hepatitis A to help stop them from developing hepatitis A.

Additional information:

Hepatitis A Vaccine: What You Need To Know (CDC) – PDF

Centers for Disease Control’s Hepatitis Page

Communicable Disease Fact Sheets (MDH) – PDF

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