Last updated: 22 December 2020
What is it?
- Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is a virus that can be found in the gut of people and some animals
- HAV can get into water and food from the faeces (poo) or blood of an infected person or animal, for example through poor hand washing or contact with sewerage
- Foods with higher risk of contamination include shellfish (e.g. oysters) and fresh produce such as salads, fruit and vegetables.
What's the risk?
- HAV can cause an infection of the gut and liver called hepatitis A
- Hepatitis A infections are contagious.
- Anyone who has not been vaccinated or has not had the virus before can get hepatitis A
- The elderly and those with a weakened immune system are more likely to have severe symptoms
- People traveling to countries where sanitation is poor can be at increased risk of picking up HAV
Reduce your risk
- There is a vaccine for HAV
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them before preparing and eating food, especially after going to the toilet and changing nappies
- Avoid sharing food, cutlery and drinks with other people
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish
- When traveling to places with poor sanitation, drink bottled water and avoid food that might have been prepared using contaminated water
Symptoms of hepatitis A
- Symptoms usually start 2-4 weeks after eating contaminated food
- Common symptoms range from fever, loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhoea, to abdominal pain, dark-coloured urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Children under 6 years usually don’t have noticeable symptoms
- Generally symptoms last for 1-2 weeks but can continue for several months