What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. It is common in countries who have poor sanitation and untreated water. It is an acute infection, and not a long term condition. This means that people usually get over it quite quickly.  However, as part of the acute phase it can (although very rarely) cause life threatening liver damage.

Did you know? …

There are 1.5 million new cases of Hepatitis A every year across the globe.

How can I get it?

There is now evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted sexually particularly in anal sex.  This is because the virus is found in the faeces of infected people. It can be passed on through contact with infected faeces. Contaminated food and water, drug use (sharing needles) and person-to-person contact (sexual intercourse and skin contact), are the most likely ways for the virus to be passed on.

What are the symptoms?

Like many STIs and STDs, the virus often has no symptoms, which is why it is important to get tested regularly. When symptoms do occur, they can include flu-like illness, weakness, tiredness, headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting.  Jaundice (where the skin or whites of the eyes may appear yellow) may also occur, if the liver becomes unable to remove bilirubin from the blood (a substance a normally functioning liver can remove).

How do I test for it?

You can get tested with Better2Know, as part of our Hepatitis Screen. A blood sample is needed, and the same sample can also be used for other STD tests you may want to order including all those in our Full STD Screen. Results are normally the day after your sample is received in the laboratory.

How is it treated?

The majority of people do not need specific treatment other than rest, and they eventually make a full recovery in a few weeks, and then should be immune from further infections.It is important that the infection is monitored to check whether chronic disease develops. You will be given advice about the risk of passing the infection on by your Better2Know Doctor. You should avoid alcohol, and maintain high personal hygiene standards to avoid passing the virus on.

Can I get a vaccine?

There is a vaccine for Hepatitis A which gives protection for one year, after which you need a booster to be protected for a further 20 years.

What are the adverse consequences?

If left untreated, a chronic infection can mean that you are more at risk of contracting HIV and other STDs through unprotected intercourse. It can also cause chronic inflammation of the liver and may lead to liver cancer. Once you have had it you should have life long immunity to the virus.