Hepatitis A is a very contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can be a mild or severe illness lasting from a few weeks to several months.

  • Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool (poop) of someone infected with hepatitis A.
  • It spreads easily when a person puts something (food, water, hands, or an object) into his or her mouth that has infected stool on or in it.  The disease is spread most often among close contacts, especially in households and large shared housing settings.
  • During travel outside of the US, most cases occur through eating or drinking contaminated food.
  • Symptoms of hepatitis A are lack of energy, diarrhea, fever, nausea, joint pain, dark urine, pale stools, and jaundice (yellow color to the whites of the eyes or skin).
  • Not all infected people have symptoms, but they can still infect others. A person can spread hepatitis A to others up to two weeks before symptoms appear.
  • If a person has symptoms, they usually appear anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks after exposure, and usually last less than 2 months, although some people can be sick for as long as 6 months. For most people, hepatitis A usually goes away on its own over several weeks.


  • The hepatitis A vaccine is your best protection! Two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine are recommended for all children, travelers to certain countries, and people at high risk for the disease.
  • You can also help prevent the spread of hepatitis A by washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, after changing a diaper, and before preparing food.
  • If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis A, call your healthcare provider or your local health department. When somebody is sick, a blood test is used to confirm the infection.