Hepatitis A

Women eating lunch

Here’s a foodborne illness that may not be on your radar. Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Fortunately, infection with the Hepatitis A virus is not a lifelong infection like other forms of hepatitis, and there is a vaccine to prevent it. Also, new cases are less than 3,000 a year in the United States. Hepatitis A can spread when a person ingests food or water contaminated by human waste that contains the virus. Food can become contaminated at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling and even after cooking. The Hepatitis A virus is even hardy enough to survive in frozen foods. Many people get Hepatitis A while traveling to other countries. Regardless of where travelers eat or stay – even at high-end resorts – it is still possible to get infected with the hepatitis A virus. Before traveling, it is important to check to see what vaccines are recommend, including the Hepatitis A vaccine.


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.
  • Travelers to regions where Hepatitis A is common should get vaccinated before their trip.


Woman shopping for produce

Food Handlers and Sources

Hepatitis A outbreaks usually result from one of two sources of contamination: an infected food handler or a contaminated food source.

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.

Couple riding on scooter

Travel and Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is common in many parts of the world, particularly in some popular travel destinations such as Mexico, and Central and South America. CDC recommends that travelers to areas where Hepatitis A is common get vaccinated for Hepatitis A in advance of travel. Even if it travel is restricted to resort destinations, it is still possible to get infected with the Hepatitis A virus.

Couple looking at menu


Most people do not get sick when someone at a restaurant has Hepatitis A; however, if an infected food handler is infectious and has poor hygiene, the risk goes up for patrons of that restaurant.

Family having a picnic


The Hepatitis A virus is extremely hardy and can live outside the body for months. High temperatures, such as boiling, or cooking food or liquids for at least 1 minute at 185° F (85° C), can kill the virus. Freezing temperatures do not kill the virus.

Kids on playground

Hepatitis A Symptoms

Some people get hepatitis A and have no symptoms of the disease. Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children.

Prevention Tips

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food.
  • There is a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis A: two doses are needed.
  • Get vaccinated if you are traveling to a country where the disease is common.
  • Vaccination is recommended for all children at age 1 year.

More at CDC.gov

Page last reviewed: July 17, 2017