Hepatitis A | Causes & Risk Factors

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What causes hepatitis A and how is it spread?

Hepatitis A is caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus. You get the virus when you unknowingly eat a small amount of infected feces. This can happen through person-to-person contact, or through eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

A person can have and spread hepatitis A, even if that person does not have any symptoms. In fact, hepatitis A is most contagious before symptoms appear. You are most likely to get hepatitis A from another person when:

  • A person who has the virus does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom.
  • A parent does not wash his or her hands properly after changing the diaper of an infected child
  • A caregiver does not wash his or her hands properly after cleaning up the stool of an infected person
  • You have sex with a person who has the virus.

You can also get infected by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Contaminated food and water are more common in developing countries. When traveling in areas where hepatitis A is common, avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables, shellfish, ice, and untreated water.

What are the risk factors for hepatitis A?

You are at higher risk for hepatitis A if you:

  • Live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis A
  • Travel to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Are a man who has sex with other men
  • Use illegal drugs
  • Have a clotting-factor disorder, such as hemophilia

Source

Hepatitis A by SC Brundage M.D., M.P.H. and AN Fitzpatrick, M.P.H. (American Family Physician June 15, 2006, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20060615/2162.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 06/06

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