Hepatitis A Disease

What is hepatitis A?

  • Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by a virus.
  • Hepatitis A only occurs as a new infection, and does not become chronic.
  • There is no cure for hepatitis A, but your healthcare provider may treat the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

  • Symptoms of Hep A may include:
    -- Fever
    -- Feeling tired 
    -- Decreased appetite
    -- Nausea and/or vomiting
    -- Stomach pain or discomfort
    -- Dark urine
    -- Clay-colored stool
    -- Joint pain
    -- Yellowing of skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Usually occur 15-50 days after being exposed to the virus.
  • If you have any of the symptoms, please consult with your healthcare provider immediately.

How does hepatitis A spread?

  • Hepatitis A virus is spread by the infected people’s contaminated objects, food, drinks, and feces (poop). 
  • Person-to-person contact
    -- An infected person who does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects, food, or drink.
    -- A parent or caregiver who does not properly wash hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person.
    -- Someone who has sex or sexual contact with an infected person, not limited to anal-oral contact.
    -- During high-risk situations like using streets drugs, homelessness, and/or having anal and oral sex.
  • Contaminated food or water
    -- Eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the virus, which may include ready-to-eat food. The food and drinks most likely to be contaminated are fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water. 

How do I protect myself and my family?

  • Hepatitis A vaccine and proper hand washing are the only ways to prevent getting the virus. 

Who should get the hepatitis A vaccine?

  • All children at age 1 year
  • Anyone who is at increased risk for infection, including those who have 
    -- Used street drug
    -- Men having sex with men
    -- Homeless and transient living
    -- Direct contact with someone with hepatitis A
    -- Travel outside of the United States
    -- Have an occupational risk
    -- Have chronic liver disease
    -- Have clotting factor disorders
  • Persons who are at increased risk for complications from hepatitis A
  • Any person wishing to obtain immunity (protection).

Which vaccine should I get?

  • For people aged 1 year of age and older, there are two vaccines that protect against hepatitis A disease. Two doses are needed given at least 6 months apart.
  • For people aged 18 years of age and older, there is one combination vaccine that protect against hepatitis A and B disease. Three doses are needed for full protection.

What are the side effects and risks?

  • Vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing side effects. 
  • Most people do not have any side effects from the vaccine, but common minor problems include: 
    -- Soreness or swelling where the shot was given 
    -- Fever 
    -- Headache
    -- Tiredness
  • The risk of the hepatitis A vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely rare. 

Where can I find more information?

  • Ask your healthcare provider or county health department.
  • Email the Alabama Department of Public Health, Immunization Division, at immunization@adph.state.al.us or call 1-800-469-4599.
  • Go to cdc.gov and type ‘Hepatitis A’ and/or ‘Hepatitis A vaccine’ in the SEARCH box.




Page last updated: March 29, 2019