What is it?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. It is most common in developing countries that have poor sanitation and untreated water. Most cases of Hepatitis A infection reported in the UK are in people who have returned from overseas. It is an acute infection, not a long term condition, which means that people usually recover quite quickly. However, as part of the acute phase, it can (very rarely) cause life threatening liver damage.
Did you know…
there are 1.5 million new cases of Hepatitis A reported every year across the globe?
How can I get it?
There is evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted sexually, particularly in anal sex, as the virus is found in the faeces of infected people and can be passed on through contact with infected faeces. Contaminated food and water, drug use (sharing needles) and person-to-person contact (sexual intercourse and skin contact) are the most likely ways for the virus to be passed on.
How do I know if I have it?
Like many STIs the virus often has no symptoms which is why it is important to get tested regularly. When symptoms do occur they can include flu-like illness, weakness, tiredness, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Jaundice (where the skin or whites of the eyes may appear yellow) can also occur if the liver becomes unable to remove bilirubin from the blood (a substance a normally functioning liver can remove).
How do I test for it?
Better2Know offers a test for Hepatitis A as part of our Hepatitis Screen. A small blood sample is needed. The same sample can also be used for other STI tests you may want to order, including all those in our Full Screen. Results are normally available the same day that the sample is received in the laboratory.
How is it treated?
The majority of people do not need specific treatment other than rest; they eventually make a full recovery in a few weeks and then should be immune from further Hepatitis A infections. However, it is still important that the infection is monitored to check whether chronic disease develops, and important to receive advice about the risk of passing the infection on. Better2Know will be able to advise you. You should also avoid alcohol and maintain high personal hygiene standards to avoid passing the virus on.
You can choose to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A with Better2Know. The vaccination offers you excellent protection against the Hepatitis A virus. For more information see our vaccines page.
If Hepatitis A is left untreated or unmonitored, a chronic infection can mean that you have increased risk of contracting HIV and other STIs through unprotected intercourse. It can also cause chronic inflammation of the liver and may lead to liver cancer. Once you have had it and recovered you should have life long immunity to the virus.