Hepatitis A

Colorful photo of the Hepatitis A Virus

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of people who are infected and can survive on surfaces for several months. Infection can occur when someone ingests the virus, usually through close personal contact with an infected person. When hearing about hepatitis A, many people think of contaminated food or water. That is one way the virus can spread and a common way international travelers get infected. However, most people don’t know that in the United States, hepatitis A is more commonly spread through close personal contact and this is how people are getting infected in the current widespread outbreaks across the country. Hepatitis A is very contagious, and people can spread the virus before they get symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain, and yellow skin or eyes. People who get hepatitis A may feel sick for a few weeks to several months. While most people recover and do not have lasting liver damage, some people need to be hospitalized. Hepatitis A can cause death, especially for people who are older or have other health problems.

Quiz

Key Facts

  • Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus.
  • The Hepatitis A virus is highly contagious.
  • People can spread Hepatitis A even if they do not look or feel sick. Many children and some adults have no symptoms.
  • There is a highly effective vaccine for Hepatitis A.
  • Widespread outbreaks of hepatitis A are occurring across the country and people are getting infected from close personal contact with people infected with hepatitis A.

Media

Homeless man against brick wall under hoodie and blanket
Hepatitis A and Homelessness

CDC now recommends anyone experiencing homelessness or unstable housing get vaccinated for hepatitis A.

Hep A vaccine
Hep A Vaccine

The Hepatitis A vaccine was introduced in 1995 and is recommended for all children at age 1, travelers to certain countries where Hepatitis A is common, and other persons at increased risk for disease.

Prevention Tips

  • The best way to prevent getting hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. Two doses are needed for long term protection, but a single dose of vaccine can prevent you from getting infected during an outbreak.
  • Vaccination is recommended for all children at age 1 year.
  • To help stop the current outbreaks, CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for people who are at risk for getting infected or at risk for developing serious complications if infected. These people include: people who use drugs (including drugs that are not injected), people experiencing unstable housing or homelessness, men who have sex with men, people with chronic liver disease, and people who are or were recently in jail or prison.
  • Get vaccinated if you are traveling to a country where the disease is common.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food.
Page last reviewed: July 22, 2022