Hepatitis A is an infectious disease of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus. It is typically transmitted from person to person by ingestion of contaminated food or water, or through direct contact with an infected person. It is most common in developing countries where hygiene standards are poor. Hepatitis A produces a self-limited disease in most people and does not go on to chronic infection or cirrhosis. In rare cases, acute Hepatitis A can be severe and result in acute liver failure.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A typically do not occur for two to six weeks after the initial infection. This is known as the incubation period. Symptoms may be vague and non-specific. They include fatigue, fever, nausea and vomiting, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), dark urine or light colored stools.
The diagnosis of hepatitis A is initially suspected when symptoms are present and the liver enzymes in the blood are markedly elevated. Specific blood tests can be performed, which demonstrate an antibody or immune response to the Hepatitis A virus. X-rays or a liver biopsy are not typically required.
There is no specific treatment for Hepatitis A. Rest and symptomatic therapy are indicated. Recovery will occur slowly over several weeks. The disease can be prevented through appropriate vaccination.