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Hepatitis A and Drinking Water from Private Wells


What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter – even in microscopic amounts – from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person.

For more information about hepatitis A illness and treatment, please visit CDC's hepatitis A page.


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Where and how does hepatitis A virus get into drinking water?

Hepatitis A can be found in every part of the United States and throughout the world. Wells, if properly installed and maintained, provide a safe source of water in the U.S. When any water source, including private wells, is contaminated with feces from infected humans, the water can potentially spread the hepatitis A virus. The virus can enter the water through various ways, including sewage overflows, sewage systems that are not working properly, and polluted storm water runoff. Wells may be more vulnerable to such contamination after flooding, particularly if the wells are shallow, have been dug or bored, or have been submerged by floodwater for long periods of time.


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How can I find out whether there is hepatitis A in my drinking water?

If you suspect a problem and your drinking water comes from a private well, you may contact your state certification officer for a list of laboratories in your area that will perform tests on drinking water for a fee.


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How do I remove hepatitis A from my drinking water?

To kill or inactivate hepatitis A, bring your water to a rolling boil for one minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes) Water should then be allowed to cool, stored in a clean sanitized container with a tight cover, and refrigerated.

Because of the small size of the virus, using a point-of-use filter will not remove it from water. You may also disinfect your well; adequate chlorination kills the hepatitis A virus. Contact your local health department for recommended procedures. Remember to have your well water tested regularly, at least once a year, after disinfection to make sure that the problem does not recur.


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