Hepatitis A is usually spread by eating or drinking items that have been contaminated with the virus or by close personal contact with an infected person.
If you have questions, please contact the Mecklenburg County Health Department Communicable Disease Program at
Symptoms appear 2-7 weeks after exposure and commonly include:
- a feeling of being unwell
- loss of appetite
- abdominal discomfort
- urine may become darker in color
- jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
If you have these symptoms you should seek medical care.
Some individuals, especially children, may not develop jaundice, and may have an illness so mild that it could go unnoticed. However, even mildly ill persons can still be highly infectious. While it can be avoided if the vaccine is given within two weeks of exposure, there is no specific treatment once a person has hepatitis A. Most people recover without complications after several weeks. People who have pre-existing liver problems can be extremely ill if they contract hepatitis A. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should see their doctor.
Careful hand washing is key to preventing the spread of hepatitis A and should include vigorous washing of hands with soap and running water for a minimum of 20 seconds. All surfaces should be washed including the back of the hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails. This is especially important after using the washroom and before handling food. Anyone who may have been exposed is strongly encouraged to follow this practice to reduce the risk of spreading illness to others.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination with the Hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccination is recommended for all children, for travelers to certain countries, and for people at high risk for infection with the virus. Frequent handwashing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food can help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A.
The Hepatitis A vaccine is a shot of inactive Hepatitis A virus that stimulates the body's natural immune system. After the vaccine is given, the body makes antibodies that protect a person against the virus. An antibody is a substance found in the blood that is produced in response to a virus invading the body. These antibodies are then stored in the body and will fight off the infection if a person is exposed to the virus in the future.