by Diana Kohnle
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that affects the liver. The virus causes the liver damage. Liver function is reduced. Waste that is normally eliminated by the liver builds up in the blood. Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes, usually results.
Hepatitis A is passed from person to person through contact with infected stool. You can get the virus from an infected child by changing a diaper or by having sexual contact with an infected person. Contaminated food and water can also spread the virus.
The virus is very common in developing countries. It also occurs in the US.
If you have been in contact with the virus and have not been vaccinated, a shot of the vaccine or immune globulin can prevent you from getting sick. It can also prevent you from spreading the virus. Either shot should be given as soon as possible.
If you do get sick, usually symptoms will resolve after rest, drinking plenty of fluids. You should also avoid medication that can damage the liver and alcohol.
At times, people with hepatitis A need to be hospitalized. Rarely, the infection can be fatal if the liver is severely damaged.
The vaccine contains an inactivated form of the hepatitis A virus. It is given as an injection in the arm.
A combined vaccine that protects against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B is also available.
The vaccine is recommended for all children aged 12-23 months. The 2 doses of the series are given 6-18 months apart. Children who have not been vaccinated can receive the shot at their next doctor's visit.
The following people should also get vaccinated:
In general, people who are traveling should get the first dose at least one month before leaving the US. Getting the vaccine anytime before traveling may also result in some protection.
There is a very small risk of severe allergic reaction, with symptoms such as:
Moderate side effects include:
The following people should not get vaccinated:
If a food-borne outbreak occurs, the source of the contaminated food will be identified and eliminated. In any hepatitis A outbreak, the affected community will get vaccinated to prevent the virus from spreading.
American Liver Foundation
Hepatitis Foundation International
Canadian Institute for Health Information
Canadian Liver Foundation
2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Updated January 25, 2017. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114868/Hepatitis-A-virus-HAV-infection . Updated March 2, 2018. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Hepatitis A questions and answers for health professionals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HAV/HAVfaq.htm. Updated November 8, 2017. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Hepatitis A virus vaccine inactivated. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T356522/Hepatitis-A-Virus-Vaccine-Inactivated . Updated February 6, 2018. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Updated February 6, 2018. Accessed May 22, 2017.
Viral hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Updated September 29, 2017. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 5/8/2014