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Hepatitis A for Adults

Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

Hepatitis A is usually spread by contact with people who are infected with the virus. People can also get hepatitis A from contact with objects, food, water or drinks contaminated by the feces of an infected person, which can easily happen if someone doesn’t properly wash his or her hands after using the toilet.

Some people are at higher risk for hepatitis A including those who:

  • Travel to or live in countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Are men who have sexual contact with other men
  • Use illegal drugs, whether injected or not
  • Have clotting-factor disorders, such as hemophilia
  • Live with someone who has hepatitis A
  • Have oral-anal sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A

Symptoms

Not all people with hepatitis A have symptoms. Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children. If symptoms develop, they usually appear two to six weeks after being infected and may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)

Prevention

The hepatitis A vaccine (HepA) is the best way to prevent the disease. Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for:

  • All children
  • Travelers to countries that have high rates of hepatitis A
  • Men who have sexual contact with other men
  • Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs
  • People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates
  • People who work with hepatitis A infected animals or in a hepatitis A research laboratory

Talk to your healthcare provider and view the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule for adults to find out if you need the hepatitis A vaccine.

Additional Resources