Hepatitis A (also called hep A) is a liver infection that’s caused by the highly contagious hepatitis A virus (HAV). People who have hepatitis A carry the virus in their blood and stool. Anyone who ingests the virus through close contact, food, or drink — even in microscopic amounts — can become infected with hepatitis A. Luckily, hepatitis A is preventable through vaccination and the healthcare providers at One Medical can help you lower your risk of contracting it or spreading it to others if you’re infected.
People with hepatitis A may experience symptoms like fatigue, nausea, stomachache, and jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), and these can last up to two months. Unlike hepatitis B and hepatitis C, hepatitis A is usually a short-term infection for most people and doesn’t become chronic as it can in the other forms of the virus. But the best way to prevent hepatitis A entirely is to get vaccinated.
Anyone can get hepatitis A, but in the United States, certain groups of people are at higher risk for getting infected and for having a more severe infection. These groups include international travelers, men who have sex with men, people who use or inject drugs, people with jobs that put them at risk for hepatitis A exposure (such as healthcare workers and first responders), people who have close contact with people from other countries, and people who are homeless. People with chronic liver disease (including hepatitis B and hepatitis C) and people with HIV are at an increased risk for severe disease as a result of hepatitis A.
If you think you’ve been exposed to hepatitis A, the best thing to do is to immediately contact a doctor’s office, such as One Medical. Luckily, a single shot of the hepatitis A vaccine can help prevent hepatitis A if it’s administered within two weeks of exposure to the virus. If you’ve been exposed to hepatitis A, your doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner may also recommend immune globulin (a substance made from human blood plasma that contains antibodies) in addition to the hepatitis A vaccine. Your One Medical provider can determine if you have hepatitis A by ordering a simple blood test (available at our offices to save you time) and treatment usually involves rest, proper nutrition, and fluids.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC) recommends that all children aged 12–23 months and all children and adolescents 2–18 years of age who have not previously received hepatitis A vaccine (known as “catch up” vaccination) receive the hepatitis A vaccination. There are two types of hepatitis A vaccine: one is a single-dose vaccine administered as two shots, six months apart, and the other is a combination vaccine that protects people against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Your One Medical provider will help you decide which vaccine is best for you, and they can help guide your testing and treatment if necessary.