What Is ‘Hepatitis A’?


Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver, usually caused by a virus or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Eventually, this leads   to liver damage.

There are different types of hepatitis, including hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, alcoholic hepatitis and autoimmune hepatitis. Each condition  has different causes and symptoms, as well as differing recovery times and health outcomes.

Hepatitis A is a liver infection when a person gets into contact with infected faeces from another person . Hepatitis A is not common in first world countries (mostly wealthy countries). However, Hepatitis A is a common in third-world countries such as   Africa, Asia, the Middle East and  South America and Central.2

Hepatitis A virulence is not leading to developing long-term liver failure unlike Hepatitis B and C. The liver infection has the ability to interfere with regular activities even acute liver failure is the follow up condition.3

Hepatitis A infection risks can be controlled with appropriate measures. .  The chance of full recovery from an acute infection  like  Hepatitis A is successful.

Today’s aim

The article aims to cover the causes of hepatitis A, the signs and symptoms of the infection, the management and treatment for hepatitis A,  and to answer the frequently asked questions  about the condition. 

What causes hepatitis A?

Poor sanitation occurs and presents the chance of contracting Hepatitis A. 

You can get the hepatitis A virus from:

  • D Drinking unclean water
  • E ating food that has been washed or grown in un-clean water
  • Eat prepared food from an infected person
  • C lose physical contact with an infected person, including having sex and sharing needles to take drugs2

The good news is that  Hepatitis A is very preventable! If you know you are travelling to a country of high risk for  Hepatitis A, there are steps you can take to prevent infection.

These include:

  • Washing  your hands thoroughly before and after eating and preparing food
  • Drinking  only bottled water, no tap water!
  • Avoiding  eating shellfish
  • Avoiding  eating any uncooked fruit and vegetables
  • Using  protection when having sex

You can check the risk for Hepatitis  A for a country online, such as through the TravelHealthPro4 website. 

How to look for signs and symptoms of hepatitis A?

The  symptoms to look for in Hepatitis A; 

  • A fever (having a high temperature)
  • Flu-like symptoms such as tiredness, muscle pains and a headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Appearing pale yellow or pale grey faeces
  • Dark brown urine (seen in the liver and kidney diseases and Urinary tract infection)
  • Itchy skin (you may also have a raised rash called hives)
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of your eyes (jaundice)

Most children will be asymptomatic  ( appear to not have symptoms ), or mild symptoms. Adults can also  be asymptomatic.2

If you believe you have  Hepatitis A, it is important to follow advice to ensure recovery and prevent infecting others .

Make sure to:

  • Limit contact with other people  seven days after your symptoms have started or  seven days after the development of Jaundice (high level of bilirubin give the skin tone yellow)
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • G et plenty of rest
  • Take painkillers if needed, such as  Paracetamol and  Ibuprofen
  • Wash  your hands thoroughly both before and after going to the toilet

How does management and treatment work with hepatitis A?

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A, and if diagnosed with Hepatitis A it usually clears up within 3 to 6 months. Painkillers and medicines consumed can stop and manage nausea or itchiness.2

There is no evidence of chronic liver disease or persistent infection after acute Hepatitis A5 infected people should expect a full recovery.

As there is no specific treatment for Hepatitis A, the best way to prevent getting infected in the first place is to get vaccinated with the Hepatitis A vaccine. These are not usually routinely offered at the counter where the risk of hepatitis A is low. However, they are the best way of ensuring your risk of getting infected is as low as possible. The recommended dose is two to provide the best immunity effect. 


How is hepatitis A diagnosed?

A blood test is the diagnostic tool used towards Hepatitis A to check if the virus is present through the presence of antibodies.

How can I prevent hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is easily preventable! Unless you are taking a trip to a different country where the virus is common, you are unlikely to get the disease. The best way to prevent contracting Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. Avoiding sexual contact with someone infected with the virus, not drinking unclean water and eating contaminated food such as that washed in cross-contaminated water or prepared by an infected person are other ways to prevent getting infected. 

Who is at risk of hepatitis A?

Anyone who has not had the Hepatitis A vaccine or getting infected with a virus that gives Hepatitis A at being opportunistic, don’t worry! Unless you took a trip to a third-world country destination, the virus is more likely to get the infection than you will get infected. 

Is hepatitis A contagious?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection transmitted by the faecal-oral route, predominantly when having close contact with an infected person or ingesting food or water with the virus in.

How common is hepatitis A?

Most cases of hepatitis A are reported from those who have traveled  to places where the virus is common, including Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America. 

When should I see a doctor?

You should see a health care provider, such as your local GP doctor if you think there is a high possibility of Hepatitis A infection. If you have recently travelled to a country where there is a risk of Hepatitis A or where there has been a recently reported hepatitis A outbreak and have the signs and symptoms listed above and fever, vomiting or nausea, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and discoloured urine and jaundice, you should see your doctor.


Hepatitis A is a liver infection that is spread in the faeces of an infected person and is common in parts of the world in low- and middle-income countries with poor sanitary conditions. Although hepatitis A can cause debilitating symptoms, the infection does not cause chronic liver failure. 

Unlike with hepatitis types B and C, the majority of those with the condition recover within 3 to 6 months. The risk of becoming infected with hepatitis A can be easily reduced, with the hepatitis A vaccine being the best cause of prevention. If you think you may have hepatitis A, you should make an appointment to get checked by your doctor.


  1. Travel Health Pro. Countries. [Internet]. [cited 2023 Mar 06]. Available from: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries
  2. Almeida P,  Matielo C, Curvelo L, Rocco R, Felga G, Guardia B, Boteon Y. Update on the management and treatment of viral hepatitis. World Journal of Gastroenterology [Internet]. 2021, p.3250-3251. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8218370/
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Amy Louise Bowler

Current Master of Science student – MSc Clinical Neuroscience at University College London (UCL)

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