Article: Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A virus
TEM micrograph of hepatitis A virions.
Virus classification
Group: Group IV ((+)ssRNA)
Family: Picornaviridae
Genus: Hepatovirus
Species: Hepatitis A virus

Hepatitis A is an enterovirus transmitted by the orofecal route, such as contaminated food. It causes an acute form of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and does not have a chronic stage. The patient's immune system makes antibodies against Hepatitis A that confer immunity against future infection. A vaccine is available that will prevent infection from hepatitis A for life.


Hepatitis A is a disease affecting the liver, and caused by the Hepatitis A virus (abbreviated HAV). Only 3 out of 4 people with hepatitis A have symptoms. Those symptoms may include:

  • Jaundice (showing up first as yellow eyes)
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach ache
  • Vomiting


There is no specific treatment for Hepatitis A. Sufferers are advised to rest, avoid alcohol, eat a well-balanced diet, and stay hydrated. Approximately 15% of people diagnosed with Hepatitis A may experience a symptomatic relapse for up to nine months after contracting the disease.


The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1991 reported a low mortality rate of 4 deaths per 1000 cases for the general population but a higher rate of 17.5 per 1000 in those aged 50 and over.


Hepatitis A can be prevented by good hygiene and sanitation. Vaccination is also available, and is recommended in areas where the prevalence of hepatitis A is high.

Ways to prevent hepatitis A include the following:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water before preparing or eating food, and after sexual activity.
  • Keep bathrooms clean and disinfected after every use.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating.
  • Drink water from approved sources only.
  • Use a dental dam or sheet of plastic wrap during anilingus.


Hepatitis A outbreaks still occur in developed countries and are usually traced to unsanitary conditions at restaurants, including but not limited to employees failing to wash their hands after restroom breaks. The most widespread Hepatitis A outbreak in American history afflicted at least 640 people (killing four) in northeastern Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania in late 2003. In November of that year, the outbreak was blamed on tainted green onions at a restaurant in Monaca, Pennsylvania.

See also

  • Hepatitis
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C