Hepatitis A is a liver disease.
Hepatitis (HEP-ah-TY-tis) makes your liver swell and stops it
from working right.
You need a healthy liver. The liver does many things to keep
you alive. The liver fights infections and stops bleeding. It
removes drugs and other poisons from your blood. The liver
also stores energy for when you need it.
What causes hepatitis A?
A virus is a germ that causes sickness. (For example, the flu is caused by a virus.) People can
pass viruses to each other. The virus that causes hepatitis A is called the hepatitis A virus.
Hepatitis A is spread by close personal contact with someone else who
has the infection.
Anyone can get hepatitis A.
But some people are more likely to than others:
Some people have:
- dark yellow urine
- light-colored stools
- yellowish eyes and skin
Some people don't have any symptoms.
If you have symptoms, or think you might have hepatitis A, go to a doctor. The doctor will test
How is hepatitis a treated?
Most people who have hepatitis A get well on
their own after a few weeks.
You may need to rest in bed for several days or weeks,
and you won't be able to drink alcohol until you are well.
The doctor may give you medicine for your symptoms.
How can I protect myself?
You can get the hepatitis A vaccine.
A vaccine is a drug that you take when you are healthy
that keeps you from getting sick. Vaccines teach your
body to attack certain viruses, like the hepatitis A virus.
The hepatitis A vaccine is given through a shot. Children
can get the vaccine after they turn 2 years old. Children
aged 2 to 18 will need three shots. The shots are spread
out over a year. Adults get two or three shots over 6 to 12
You need all of the shots to be protected. If you miss a shot, call your doctor or clinic right
away to set up a new appointment.
You can protect yourself and others from hepatitis A in these ways, too:
- Always wash your hands after using the toilet and
before fixing food or eating.
- Wear gloves if you have to touch other people's
stool. Wash your hands afterwards.
- Drink bottled water when you are in another
country. (And don't use ice cubes or wash fruits
and vegetables in tap water.)
For more information
You can also get information about hepatitis A from these groups:
American Liver Foundation
75 Maiden Lane, Suite 603
New York, NY 10038
Phone: 1-800-465-4837 (This is a free call.)
Hepatitis Foundation International (HFI)
504 Blick Drive
Silver Spring, MD 20904-2901
Phone: 1-800-891-0707 or (301) 622-4200
Fax: (301) 622-4702
There are other types of hepatitis. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
also has booklets about hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
You can get a free copy of each of these booklets by calling 1-800-891-5389 or (301)
654-3810, or by writing to
2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3570
Hepatitis information for health professionals is also available.
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) is a service of the
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is
part of the National Institutes of Health under the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. Established in 1980, the clearinghouse provides information about digestive diseases
to people with digestive disorders and to their families, health care professionals, and the
public. NDDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely
with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources
about digestive diseases.
Publications produced by the clearinghouse are carefully reviewed by both NIDDK scientists
and outside experts.
This e-text is not copyrighted. The clearinghouse encourages users of this e-pub to duplicate
and distribute as many copies as desired.
NIH Publication No. 02-4244