What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that affects the liver and is prevalent in developing nations. It is characterized by jaundice, which causes the skin to turn yellow. Symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, and general weakness, lasting up to a month or longer. While younger children may not exhibit any symptoms, they can still transmit the disease.

Although the disease is usually not fatal, approximately 25% of reported cases can result in death. Hepatitis is a viral illness that occurs worldwide, with higher incidence rates in areas with poor hygiene and sanitation practices. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, and jaundice, with recovery time lasting several weeks or even months.

Who’s at risk?

The risk of contracting hepatitis A is high for anyone who comes into contact with food or water that is contaminated. The primary mode of transmission is through ingestion of food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person.

This may occur when an infected person prepares food for others. In addition, the virus can also be transmitted from person to person through close physical contact. It is important to note that individuals who are not vaccinated and have not been previously infected with the virus are at the highest risk of contracting hepatitis A.

Woman with a drink by the pool

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

The incubation period is usually 14–28 days, meaning it takes that amount of time to notice most symptoms.

Symptoms of hepatitis A range from mild to severe and can include:

  • fever
  • malaise
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • abdominal discomfort
  • dark-coloured urine
  • jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes and skin)

Not everyone who is infected will experience all of the symptoms.

Person holding stomach

What happens if someone is infected with hepatitis A?

Left untreated, hepatitis A can cause debilitating symptoms and acute liver failure, which is often fatal.


Who is at risk?

Individuals who have not received a hepatitis A vaccination or have not been previously infected with the virus are vulnerable to the disease. Travellers are particularly susceptible to contracting hepatitis A as they may encounter new environments with poor sanitation or lack of clean water or visit regions where the disease is endemic and the risk of exposure to infected individuals is high.

What treatment is available for hepatitis A?

There is currently no known cure for hepatitis A. Treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms and maintaining proper nutrition. This may include replenishing fluids lost due to vomiting and diarrhea. Hospitalization is typically not necessary unless acute liver failure occurs.

How can I prevent hepatitis A?

To minimize the transmission of hepatitis A, the following measures are recommended: vaccines available to help prevent hepatitis A, ensuring access to safe and clean drinking water, and practicing good personal hygiene, such as frequent handwashing.