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Department of Health News 

This news item expired on 9/30/2008, so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.

Hepatitis A

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What is Hepatitis? Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by many things including viruses, chemicals, drugs, alcohol, inherited diseases, or a person’s own immune system.

Get the Hepatitis A shot to protect yourself.What is Hepatitis A? Hepatitis A is caused by a virus and can easily be passed between humans.

How is it spread? The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of people who are infected. It is usually spread in one of two ways:

  1. Person to person contact:
    • when an infected person does not wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom, and touches other objects or food
    • when a parent or caregiver doesn’t wash their hands after changing a diaper or cleaning up after an infected person
    • with certain sexual activities, such as oral-anal contact with an infected person
  2. Eating or drinking infected food or water:
    • more likely to happen in countries where hepatitis A is common
    • food and drinks most likely to be affected are fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water
    • Chlorine in our drinking water kills any hepatitis A virus that enters the supply.

What are the symptoms? Some people get hepatitis A and have no symptoms. Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children. If someone has symptoms they may include:

  • Weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Yellowing skin or the whites of the eyes (jaundice)

How is Hepatitis A treated? There is no special treatment for hepatitis A. Those with symptoms may feel sick from less than 2 months to as long as 6 months before beginning to feel better. Some people need to go to the hospital. Rest, good nutrition, and fluids are most often suggested by doctors.

How can Hepatitis A be prevented?

  1. Get the hepatitis A vaccination. Anyone over the age of 1 year may be vaccinated against hepatitis A. Children between the ages of 1-18 may receive the vaccine at no charge at their local health department. Those traveling to foreign countries where the disease is common should get the vaccine as soon as they know they will be traveling.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water! Always wash well after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before eating or preparing food.

For more information: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/a/. You may also call the Health Center’s Disease Control Division at 250-5109.