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Hepatitis A

Division of Epidemiology
275 East Main Street
Frankfort, KY  40621
502-564-3418 or 3261

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus.

Who Is At Risk For Infection

  • Household/sexual contacts of an infected person;
  • International travelers;
  • Persons living in regions with endemic hepatitis A;
  • During outbreaks, day care center employees or attendees,
  • men having sex with men,
  • injecting drug users.

How Hepatitis A Is Spread

Hepatitis A (HAV infection) is transmitted by the fecal-oral route (putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with stool of a person infected with hepatitis A).

This transmission occurs through person-to-person contact or ingestion of contaminated food or water. On rare occasions, Hepatitis A is transmitted from transfusion of blood or blood products. Hepatitis is spread more easily in poor sanitary conditions or where good hygiene is not observed.

The Symptoms Of Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis A can have an abrupt onset of symptoms that can include:
    • fever
    • malaise (fatigue)
    • anorexia (loss of appetite)
    • nausea
    • abdominal discomfort
    • dark urine
    • and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Persons with hepatitis A virus infection may not have any signs or symptoms of the disease.
  • Older persons are more likely to have symptoms than children.
  • In children under 6 years of age, most (70 percent) infections are asymptomatic.
  • In adults and older children, most infections are symptomatic and over 70 percent develop jaundice.
  • Signs and symptoms usually last less than 2 months, although some persons have prolonged or relapsing disease lasting up to 6 months.

How Hepatitis A Is Diagnosed?

A blood test (IgM anti-HAV) is needed to diagnose hepatitis A. Talk to your doctor or someone from your local health department if you suspect that you have been exposed to hepatitis A or any type of viral hepatitis.

The Treatment For Hepatitis A

Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients should be given postexposure prophylaxis with IG (immune globulin) within two weeks of last exposure.

There is no specific treatment or cure for hepatitis A virus infection.

How Hepatitis A Can Be Prevented

  • Careful handwashing and good hygiene.
  • Provide proper water treatment and distribution systems and sewage disposal.
  • Vaccination with hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for persons at increased risk for HAV infection or its consequences:
    • Persons with chronic liver disease or clotting factor disorders;
    • Men who have sex with men;
    • Injecting drug users;
    • Persons traveling to countries where HAV is endemic;
    • Persons who work with HAV infected primates or with HAV in research laboratory settings and;
    • Children living in communities that have consistently elevated rates of hepatitis A.
  • Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients should be given postexposure prophylaxis with IG within two weeks of last exposure.
  • Oysters, clams and other shellfish from contaminated areas should be heated to a temperature of 85 to 90 degrees C for 4 minutes or steamed for 90 seconds before eating.

For more information about Hepatitis A virus, contact your health care provider, local health department, or the Kentucky Department for Public Health at (502) 564-3261.


See Also...
  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Hepatitis A,B, and C.

Related Content

KY Hepatitis Connection Newsletter

Last Updated 1/8/2014
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