Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a virus that can cause inflammation of the liver.  Symptoms of hepatitis A infection may include jaundice (yellow eyes or skin), abdominal pain, dark urine, pale (light-colored) stool, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite, fever, nausea or vomiting. Illness usually occurs between 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus.

Hepatitis A is very contagious, meaning it can spread easily from person-to-person.  It is usually spread by the fecal-oral route, when an infected person doesn’t was his/her hands well, and then contaminates food, drinks or objects that others put in their mouth.  Outbreaks can occur from contaminated food, but also more recently have been reported throughout the United States among persons who use injection and non-injection drugs, and/or who are homeless.  People are infectious from two weeks before to one week after onset of jaundice or elevation of liver enzymes.

A safe effective vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis A infection and is part of the routine recommended vaccination schedule for all children (at age 1 year) and for certain adults with increased risk for hepatitis A or severe disease.  See below for more information.

Hepatitis A vaccine can also decrease the risk of infection in people exposed to hepatitis A if given within two weeks of exposure.  HCA Epidemiology will assist in recommendations for post-exposure prophylaxis of contacts of cases.

For pre-exposure (i.e., travel) prophylaxis recommendations, see Pre-Exposure Vaccination Recommendations for Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is reportable in Orange County within one (1) working day of identification.  To report a case, health care providers/facilities should call OCHCA Epidemiology at 714-834-8180 or fax records to 714-560-4050.   An average of 20 cases (range, 15-26) of hepatitis A were reported in Orange County each year between 2013 and 2017; most were travel-associated.  Orange County has NOT had an outbreak here among people who are homeless or use drugs.

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For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm.

Last reviewed March 18, 2019