What is Hepatitis A (HAV)?

Hepatitis A is the most common type of viral hepatitis, highly infectious and is caused by the Hepatitis A virus. This disease commonly affects children and young adults. The spread of infection is mainly by the oro-fecal route and arises from the investigation of contaminated water and foods (like milk). Overcrowding and poor sanitation facilitate the spread of this disease. Clinical illness is more severe in adults than in children. No carrier state, complete recovery, does not lead to chronic hepatitis.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis A in Men and Women?

Older children and adults typically have symptoms. If symptoms develop, they can appear abruptly and can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

Most children younger than age 6 do not have symptoms when they have Hepatitis A. When symptoms are present, young children typically do not have jaundice, but older children and adults with Hepatitis A do.

How soon after exposure to Hepatitis A will symptoms appear?

If symptoms occur, they usually start appearing 4 weeks after exposure, but can occur as early as 2 and as late as 7 weeks after exposure. Symptoms usually develop over a period of several days.

How long do Hepatitis A symptoms last?

Symptoms usually last less than 2 months, although some people (10%–15%) with Hepatitis A can have symptoms for as long as 6 months.

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What Are the Complications and Risks of Hepatitis A?

Complication of Hepatitis A can lead to:

  • Fulminant hepatic failure in less than 1% and mortality in young adults is 0.1% that increases with age.
  • Extra hepatic Complications: Acute renal failure, interstitial nephritis, pancreatitis, red blood cell aplasia, agranulocytosis, transient heart block, bone marrow aplasia, Guillain-Barre syndrome, acute arthritis, Still disease, lupus like syndrome and Sjogreen syndrome have been reported in association with HAV infection. Autoimmune hepatitis following HAV infection may occur. These complications are all rare.

How Hepatitis A can be treated?

If you know you have been suffering with Hepatitis A, immediately contact your doctor. There is no treatment for the disease. Your doctor may take tests that check your liver function to ensure your body is healing.

How Hepatitis A can be managed?

Bed rest:

Bed rest is advised until clinical and laboratory evidence of acute illness has disappeared. Patients should be treated at home unless there is specific indication.

Indications for hospitalization

  • Persistent vomiting
  • Change in sleep behaviors
  • Development of bruising
  • Uncertain diagnosis


High carbohydrate, high protein, low fat diet, thus, providing adequate calories (2000-3000 K cal). Initially, fruit juice, glucose and sugarcane juice should be given to an anorexic patient.


  • Drugs should be avoided in severe Hepatitis A because they are metabolized in the liver, especially sedatives and hypnotics. Paracetamol may be cautiously administered, but is strictly limited to a maximum dose of 3-4 g/d in adults.
  • Antiemetic for vomiting
  • Multivitamin supplement if anorexia is marked
  • Parenteral feeding: If severe anorexia and vomiting is present, administer 10% glucose by slow I/V drip 2000-2500 ml in 24 hours to prevent dehydration
  • Calamine lotion and cholestyramine 4mg TDS for pruritus in cholestatic jaundice.
  • Liver transplant may be required for hepatic failure

Sexual Activity

Hepatitis A is spreadable through sexual activity; therefore, care should be taken while having sex.

Recovery Time

Recovery from symptoms following infection may take several weeks and even extend up to several months.

Can Hepatitis A Be Prevented?

Vaccination is your best defense against Hepatitis A. If you feel risky about Hepatitis A, you can get a specific medication known as immune globulin within two weeks.

Good hygiene is also an important factor in the prevention of Hepatitis A. Hence, always wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before and after handling food, as well as after changing a diaper.

Mark Riegel, MD

Quick Snapshot

Can it be cured?

No. There are no specific medicines to cure infection with Hepatitis A.

How is treated?

It can be treated by avoiding sexual contact and maintaining good hygienic conditions, using proper diet and visiting health care providers on time.

Recovery Time

Recovery from symptoms following infection may take several weeks and can even extend up to several months.

Can I have sex?

No. Sexual activity should be avoided until treatment is successful.

Can I get re-infected?

Yes. Re-infection is possible from sexual activity with an infected person.

Do I Have Hepatitis A?

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