Division of Epidemiology
275 East Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40621
502-564-3418 or 3261
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus.
Who Is At Risk For Infection
Household/sexual contacts of an infected person;
Persons living in regions with endemic hepatitis A;
During outbreaks: day care center employees or attendees, men having sex with men, injecting drug users.
How Hepatitis A Is Spread
Hepatitis A (HAV infection) is transmitted by the fecal-oral route (putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with stool of a person infected with hepatitis A).
This transmission occurs through person-to-person contact or ingestion of contaminated food or water. On rare occasions, Hepatitis A is transmitted from transfusion of blood or blood products. Hepatitis is spread more easily in poor sanitary conditions or where good hygiene is not observed.
The Symptoms Of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A can have an abrupt onset of symptoms that can include fever, malaise (fatigue), anorexia (loss of appetite), nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
Persons with hepatitis A virus infection may not have any signs or symptoms of the disease. Older persons are more likely to have symptoms than children.
In children under 6 years of age, most (70 percent) infections are asymptomatic.
In adults and older children, most infections are symptomatic and over 70 percent develop jaundice.
Signs and symptoms usually last less than 2 months, although some persons have prolonged or relapsing disease lasting up to 6 months.
How Hepatitis A Is Diagnosed?
A blood test (IgM anti-HAV) is needed to diagnose hepatitis A. Talk to your doctor or someone from your local health department if you suspect that you have been exposed to hepatitis A or any type of viral hepatitis.
The Treatment For Hepatitis A
Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients should be given postexposure prophylaxis with IG (immune globulin) within two weeks of last exposure.
There is no specific treatment or cure for hepatitis A virus infection.
How Hepatitis A Can Be Prevented
Careful handwashing and good hygiene.
Provide proper water treatment and distribution systems and sewage disposal.
Vaccination with hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for persons at increased risk for HAV infection or its consequences:
Persons with chronic liver disease or clotting factor disorders;
Men who have sex with men;
Injecting drug users;
Persons traveling to countries where HAV is endemic;
Persons who work with HAV infected primates or with HAV in research laboratory settings and;
Children living in communities that have consistently elevated rates of hepatitis A.
Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients should be given postexposure prophylaxis with IG within two weeks of last exposure.
Oysters, clams and other shellfish from contaminated areas should be heated to a temperature of 85 to 90 degrees C for 4 minutes or steamed for 90 seconds before eating.
For more information about Hepatitis A virus contact your health care provider, local health department, or the Kentucky Department for Public Health at (502) 564-3261.