What is it?

It’s a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can range from a mild ailment lasting a few days to a severe illness lasting months. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, diarrhea, clay-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice.

How does it spread?

The virus usually spreads when someone unknowingly ingests it from objects, food or drinks contaminated by stool from an infected person. It can also spread during close personal contact with an infected person.

Who should get vaccine?

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends vaccinating at-risk groups as well as those more likely to suffer complications: 1-year-olds and “any person wishing to obtain immunity.” The committee recently voted to extend its recommendations to children ages 2-18 who missed the vaccine as babies.

How is it treated?

There’s no medication or cure. Doctors typically treat symptoms and recommend rest, adequate nutrition and fluids. Some people need to be hospitalized. In rare cases, hepatitis A can be fatal.

How is hepatitis A different from other types?

Hepatitis A, B and C are caused by different viruses. Hepatitis B is primarily spread via blood, semen or certain other body fluids. Hepatitis C is spread via blood. Hepatitis B or C can range from mild illnesses, lasting a few weeks, to serious, chronic conditions. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.


Sources: CDC advisory committee