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:
- malaise (fatigue)
- anorexia (loss of appetite)
- 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.