Hepatitis A: the facts
All you need to know about this serious illness
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It’s not massively common in Ireland, but it is on the rise, so it’s important to get the facts on it!
How would I become infected with Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is transmitted when the feces (poo) of a person infected with Hepatitis A gets into the mouth of an uninfected person.
- This can happen through poor hygiene conditions or contaminated food or drink (especially if you're travelling to certain countries).
- It can also happen sexually, especially during anal-oral sex or “rimming”.
How would I know if I had it?
Symptoms vary a lot from person to person. Some people won’t have any symptoms at all, so the best way to know is to get tested.
If symptoms occur, they can be similar to the flu. Most people with Hepatitis A usually have:
- Extreme tiredness.
- Loss of appetite.
- Muscle aches and pains.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Low-grade fever.
Several days later, symptoms of liver problems may occur. You may have:
- Dark urine.
- Light-colored poo.
- Yellow skin.
- Yellowing of the white part of the eyes.
- Stomach pain
- Itchy skin.
Often times Hepatitis A is a pretty mild illness, and will go away in 1-2 weeks, but can be more severe depending on the person.
How would I get treated?
There is no specific treatment for Hepatitis A, but you can manage it by drinking plenty of fluids and eating well.
How can I protect myself against it?
- You can get a vaccine against it, together with a Hepatitis B vaccine. This is available for free at some STI clinics, so ask there (it's also usually available as part of travel vaccinations but be sure to ask).
- Good hygiene and sanitation.
- If you’re having anal-oral sex (rimming), use a dental dam.
- Barriers such as glyde dams, gloves, condoms and female condoms can be used during all forms of sexual activity to reduce the risk of Hepatitis A transmission.