Hepatitis A Information
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a viral disease with a fecal/oral route of transmission. Simply put,
if an infected food handler does not wash their hands after using the restroom, there
is a chance of passing the disease.
Hepatitis A is a common disease caused by a virus that affects the liver. It is
sometimes called Infectious Hepatitis. Symptoms usually start with weakness, fever,
loss of appetite, nausea, and abdominal discomfort. These symptoms are often followed
by jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), coffee-colored urine and pale-colored
bowel movement. Generally, symptoms begin about 30 days after exposure to the virus,
although this may range from 15 to 20 days.
The illness ranges from very mild with no symptoms, to mild or moderate symptoms
lasting only a week or two, to an illness severe enough to require going to the hospital.
Young children often do not have symptoms and their infection may not be noticed.
Elderly persons are more likely to have serious illness. Deaths due to Hepatitis A
There is no treatment for hepatitis A. You must prevent it.
How is Hepatitis A Spread?
The virus is spread from person-to-person when there is close personal contact.
Specifically, spread occurs in households, day care or by sexual contact. Spread among
small children occurs because of contact with feces.
In addition, the virus is spread when someone eats or drinks food contaminated with
feces (bowel movement) from an infected person. This most often occurs when an infected
person fails to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food.
Outbreaks of hepatitis A usually involve contaminated water or food. This happens
when contaminated food is undercooked or not cooked after handling. The foods involved
are often sliced meats, salads or undercooked shellfish. Swimming in contaminated water
can also cause infection.
A person with hepatitis A is most likely to spread the disease to others ten days
before feeling sick until four days after the onset of jaundice (yellowing of skin or
Most people do not spread the disease after the first week of jaundice.
Hepatitis A is NOT spread by sneezing or contact with saliva.
How do you prevent the spread of Hepatitis A?
Handwashing: Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water:
- After using the bathroom.
- Before and after changing every diaper.
- Before fixing food.
- Before eating or feeding others, especially infants.
Treatment of Contacts
A medicine called Immune Serum Globulin (ISG) can be given to prevent disease
if it is given within the first two weeks after exposure. ISG should be given to
- All people living in the same house with an infected person.
- People who have eaten food fixed by an infected person.
- Children and staff members in a day care center.
- Sexual partners of an infected person.
- Other contacts as determined by the local health department.
ISG is NOT needed for contacts in the usual office, school or factory setting.
If you have any questions or concerns, please call the Johnston County Health Department