Hepatitis A is a virus that causes a liver infection. It’s spread in the faeces of people who’ve been infected. Although is is an unpleasant disease, most people infected will make a full recovery in a couple of months. However, it can last a lot longer.
The infection is spread through eating food prepared by someone who has been infected and hasn’t washed their hands properly; or eating food prepared by someone who washed their hands in contaminated water; drinking contaminated water, which includes ice cubes; close contact with someone who has been infected; having sex with someone who has been infected; injecting drugs with a contaminated needle.
Whilst uncommon in the UK, Hepatitis A is a risk for travellers to countries with poor sanitation levels, people who inject drugs, and people who have anal sex.
If you are at risk of infection, it is a good idea to vaccinate against Hepatitis A. The TravelHealthPro website lists the recommended vaccines for travellers to specific countries, so always check before you go.
For most people, symptoms generally develop about 4 weeks after infection and last a couple of months; others won’t experience any symptoms at all.
- A feeling of general unwellness
- Stomach ache
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in joints and muscles
- A high temperature
- Jaundiced skin and eyes
- Itchy skin
- Pale faeces and dark urine
There is no cure, but the disease will usually pass on its own. Whilst it’s a good idea to see your GP, you can manage your own symptoms by treating aches and pains with paracetamol or ibuprofen, good hygiene practices, e.g. washing your hands regularly; getting plenty of rest; staying away from work until at least a week after your symptoms started; abstaining from sex for at least a week after your symptoms started; keeping the room cool and well ventilated, avoiding alcohol to help your liver recover.