About Hepatitis A (Hep A, HAV)
Hepatitis A is a virus that causes acute, but not chronic, inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A is common in individuals who are exposed to communal living, such as in day cares, and among travelers. Hepatitis A has a low mortality rate and never becomes chronic. After an acute infection, immunity usually exists. The infection has an incubation period of 15-50 days. The infection time ranges from two weeks to six months.
Why it is Problematic
Hepatitis A causes the liver to become irritated and swollen. Elderly patients or those with chronic liver disease could experience liver failure as a result of hepatitis A infection.
Causes and Risk Factors
Hepatitis A is transmitted through unsanitary conditions. Exposure to contaminated water or food, intravenous (IV) drug use, and fecal-oral transmission could lead to hepatitis A exposure.
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes)
- Loss of appetite
- Pale stool
- Abdominal discomfort
If hepatitis A is suspected, a medical examination and blood tests can confirm the diagnosis.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. The body's immune system typically clears the virus within a few months. To help maintain liver function, one should not drink alcohol or expose the body to other toxic substances. For a complete list of liver toxins, please see our Toxin Awareness page..
A hepatitis A vaccine is available. Maintaining good hygiene standards and thoroughly washing hands may prevent the virus from spreading.
The incidence of hepatitis A is very high in developing countries where, by the age of 10, nearly 90% of children have been exposed. People traveling to those countries are also at risk. In developed countries the incidence is much lower due to better sanitation.