ZocdocAnswersWhat is hepatitis A?

Question

What is hepatitis A?

My aunt has hepatitis a. What does this mean exactly and is it serious?

Answer

Your aunt should definitely discuss her symptoms with her physician. Hepatitis A is a virus that acutely infects the liver. Unlike other hepatitis viruses such as hepatitis B or C, hepatitis A does not cause chronic infection or cirrhosis and it is not linked to an increased risk of liver cancer (as hepatitis B and C are). It is typically spread through contaminated food or water. The virus is shed in the stool, so poor hygiene can lead to spread of infection. Usually people become ill sometime between 2 and 6 weeks after being infected with the virus and symptoms can include abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, and general malaise. Rarely, hepatitis A can cause fulminant hepatic failure but this is very unusual especially for people in otherwise good health. Symptoms usually resolve in about two months, but the good news for your aunt is that she will likely make a full recovery. However, it is important that she keep regular visits with her physician to monitor her recovery. If she has any new or worsening symptoms, she should seek medical attention right away. It is also important to note that Hepatitis A is a preventable illness, as a vaccine exists to prevent infection. Anyone who has not had the virus should speak to their physician about getting vaccinated to avoid future infection.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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