An acute illness caused by the hepatitis A virus usually lasts about three weeks but may persist for up to six months. Most people with hepatitis A experience flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal pain, intermittent nausea, dark urine, light-colored stools. Jaundice occurs in most adults infected with the hepatitis A virus.
Most of the estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people infected with hepatitis A annually recover without any serious or long-term health problems but about 100 cases a year lead to death due to fulminant hepatitis. Chronic infection with the hepatitis A virus does not occur. The usual treatment for hepatitis A usually involves bed rest and the extra intake of fluids.
The hepatitis A virus is spread by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. This type of transmission is called "fecal-oral," and thus the virus is more easily spread in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or where good personal hygiene is not observed such as when people fail to wash their hands after using the bathroom. Most infections result from contact with a household member or sex partner who has hepatitis A. Casual contact, as in the usual office, factory, or school setting, does not spread the virus.
This section will provide current information relevant to hepatitis A. Also, please visit the related section on foodborne illnesses.