Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A Facts
Download facts about Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A, otherwise known as hep A, is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It causes inflammation and affects your liver's ability to function. Hepatitis A can range in severity, from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Vaccines are available at our Denver Public Health Immunization Clinic, or at one of our community vaccination clinics.

Free Hepatitis A Vaccination Clinics

Free hepatitis A vaccine is specifically for people at high risk of infection. These are people experiencing homelessness, people who inject drugs and people who have been incarcerated. Please view the September schedule for locations and times. 

Transmission

Hepatitis A can be spread in several ways:

  • By eating food contaminated by a person not washing their hands after using the bathroom. Both uncooked and cooked foods may be contaminated.
  • From sharing meals or housing, sexual contact, or sharing injection drug equipment with a person who has hepatitis A.
  • By drinking contaminated water, though this is rare in the United States.

Symptoms

Some people, particularly young children usually do not show symptoms. Symptoms usually occur suddenly. They can include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Yellow skin and/or eyes (jaundice)

If you develop symptoms or believe you have been in close personal contact with a person who has Hepatitis A, seek care urgently from your primary care provider or from an emergency department.

Treatment

If you have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus within the last 14 days and have not been vaccinated against it, you might benefit from either immune globulin or hepatitis A vaccine.

Prevention

Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing or eating food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. The hepatitis A vaccine can protect you and others from infection.

What is the difference between Hepatitis A, B and C?

There are three common types of hepatitis (A, B and C). Each type is caused by a different virus, and each type of hepatitis affects the liver differently. Having multiple types of hepatitis at the same time can make symptoms worse.

  • Hepatitis A is spread by eating food or water contaminated with invisible amounts of feces. A vaccine can prevent hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis B is spread through sexual contact, or by sharing needles or works. A vaccine can prevent hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis C is spread through sexual contact, or by sharing needs or works. There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C.

Having one type of viral hepatitis in the past does not protect a person from getting other types.

For more information, call Denver Public Health at (303) 602-3614.

Sources:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
  • Denver Public Health