Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is not common in Australia.
You can get hepatitis A if you:

  • eat or drink something that has come into contact with infected poo
  • have oral or anal sex with someone who has hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A doesn’t spread to people who have already had it or people who have had a vaccine. Hepatitis A can make you feel very unwell for a short time. But most people get better.

Like hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A is a virus that harms the liver. But it does not cause liver disease that lasts a long time.

Almost everyone who has hepatitis A gets better. But a very small number of people get very sick or die from liver failure. These people are often 50 years or older, or have other health issues (like hepatitis B or C).

How do you get hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A spreads most often through unclean food and drink. This is food or drink that has come into contact with infected poo. The main reason is a lack of clean water and not cleaning things correctly. You can also get hepatitis A through close physical contact with someone who has it. And you can get it through oral or anal sex.

Not many people get hepatitis A in Australia. But some people are more likely to get it:

  • people who take drugs using needles
  • men who have sex with men
  • if people travel where Hepatitis A is more common (for example, countries with less access to clean water or sanitation)
  • people who are homeless.

People in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities may be more likely to get Hepatitis A. This is because they have access to less clean water and less ways to clean things well.

How do you protect yourself against hepatitis A?
Washing your hands often, and washing and preparing food well can stop the virus from spreading. There is also a vaccine that works very well to protect against hepatitis A. If you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C, you should get the hepatitis A vaccine. You can get a hepatitis A vaccine from a doctor.

If you get hepatitis A, you may:

  • have a fever
  • feel sick in the stomach
  • have pain in your belly
  • have dark wee
  • have yellow skin and eyes (also known as jaundice).

What happens if you get hepatitis A?

Some people who get hepatitis A do not feel unwell. Many children under five years old will not feel or look unwell. But most adults and children aged over six will feel unwell. 70% of adults will also have jaundice. Most people feel unwell for up to 2 months. There are some who feel unwell for up to 6 months. Most people fully recover.

If you think you could have hepatitis A, talk to your doctor straight away. You can get a treatment called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) which could stop the hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A can spread to others easily. If you have it, you should stay away from places like childcare, school, or work. Your doctor will tell you when you can’t infect people any more.