Hepatitis A Infection

Hepatitis A Infection

Viral Hepatitis has become increasingly widespread across the world making it a global public health issue. The death rate from viral Hepatitis has been steadily climbing over time with lakhs of deaths per year.

Viral Hepatitis is mostly caused by any of the known five viruses, namely Hepatitis A Virus (HAV), Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), Hepatitis D Virus (HDV), and Hepatitis E Virus (HEV). In India, the overall percentage of people suffering from HCV are from 2.1% to 52.5%. Viral Hepatitis is an infection that affects the liver and its functions.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. Although not very dangerous, Hepatitis A may take some time to cure, and care should be taken during that time.

How is Hepatitis A transmitted?

Hepatitis A is highly contagious and may spread through following ways:

  • Person-to-person contact: Having sexual contact with someone who has the disease, using street drugs with them, or caring for someone who is ill with the disease.
  • Contaminated food or drink: Hepatitis A is most commonly transmitted via food with contamination happening at any stage of the food processes, from growing to cooking. Exposure of food or drinks feces of someone with hepatitis A in the ground or somewhere else (unhygienic practices)

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A causes inflammation of the liver. Some people, mostly children do not show any symptoms. Others might have:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
  • Pain in upper tummy
  • Dark urine
  • Pale-yellow pale grey coloured poop
  • Loss of hunger
  • An upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • High temperature (Fever)
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, headache
  • Diarrhea or constipation

Symptoms go away after about 2 months but sometime hepatitis A results in a severe illness that may make symptoms appear for up to 6 months.

What are the causes and risk factors of Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus of the same name infecting the liver cells and causing inflammation. The virus spreads by fecal-oral transmission (infected stool enters the mouth of another person). Since the virus can live on surfaces for a few months, they are more likely to enter into the body.

A person has increased chances (risk factors) of acquiring the virus in the following cases:

  • Travelling or working in areas with presence of Hepatitis A
  • Living with hepatitis A infected person
  • Having man to man sexual contact
  • Having sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A
  • HIV positive patients
  • Having a blood clotting disorder such as hemophilia
  • Working with primates
  • Using recreational drugs, not just injections but others too

How is Hepatitis A diagnosed?

Blood tests are conducted for testing Hepatitis A. A sample of blood is taken and sent to the laboratory for testing.

What are the treatment options for Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis infections are generally not treatment with specific medications as the body’s own defense clears the hepatitis A virus and the liver heals within six months with no lasting damage. Treatment focuses on keeping patients comfortable and controlling symptoms by:

  • Taking adequate rest since many people with the infection have low energy and feel tired.
  • Taking sufficient food and liquids: Eat a balanced healthy diet. Sometimes nausea can make it difficult to eat but try smaller meals throughout the day rather than eating full meals. Eating high-calorie foods is beneficial such as drinking fruit juice or milk rather than water. Drinking plenty of fluids is important to prevent dehydration, especially if vomiting or diarrhea occurs.
  • Avoiding alcohol and using medications with care since the liver may have difficulty processing medications and alcohol. Alcohol is strictly not recommended since it may damage the already weak liver.
  • Medicines: The doctor may offer medicines such as painkillers or medicinces to help with itching, if any or fever; these medicines are basically to help manage the symptoms

How can Hepatitis A be prevented?

Hepatitis A vaccine exists and is effective in 95% of healthy adults and works for more than 20 years. In children, it’s about 85% effective and lasts for about 15-20 years.
Indian Academy of Pediatrics recommends two doses of the many licensed vaccines given six months apart to children aged one year or older. Adults also need two doses. They are given 6-18 months apart.

In India, the vaccine is recommended for all adults and children aged one year or older. However, some groups of people as below may need to get vaccinated as by experts recommendation:

  • People travelling to countries with rampant hepatitis A infections
  • Children aged 13-23 months.
  • Children and adolescents aged 2-18 who did not previously receive a vaccine
  • Families adopting children from virus prone countries
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who have a blood clotting problem
  • Homeless people
  • People with direct contact with a person infected with the virus
  • People who use recreational drugs
  • People with long-term liver disease


  1. Kumar D, Peter RM, Joseph A, Kosalram K, Kaur H. Prevalence of viral hepatitis infection in India: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Educ Health Promot. 2023 Mar 31;12:103.
  2. Hepatitis A. Mayo Clinic. February 2024.
  3. Hepatitis A. WebMD. February 2024.
  4. Hepatitis A. NHS UK. February 2024.

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