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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus that's spread in the poo of an infected person.

It's uncommon in the UK, but certain groups are at increased risk. This includes travellers to parts of the world with poor levels of sanitation, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs.

Hepatitis A can be unpleasant, but it's not usually serious and most people make a full recovery within a couple of months.

Some people, particularly young children, may not have any symptoms.

But hepatitis A can occasionally last for many months and, in rare cases, it can be life threatening if it causes the liver to stop working properly (liver failure).

hepatitis A vaccine is available for people at high risk of infection.

Symptoms of hepatitis A

The symptoms of hepatitis A develop, on average, around 4 weeks after becoming infected, although not everyone will get them.

Symptoms can include:

The symptoms will usually pass within a couple of months.

Find out more about the symptoms of hepatitis A

When to get medical advice

See your GP for advice if:

Although hepatitis A is not usually serious, it's important to see your GP so they can rule out more serious conditions with similar symptoms, such as hepatitis C or scarring of ther liver (cirrhosis).

It may also be necessary to test your friends, family and any sexual partners in case you have spread the infection to them.

How you can get hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is most widespread in parts of the world where standards of sanitation and food hygiene are generally poor, such as parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, the Middle East, and Central and South America.

You can get the infection from:

Someone with hepatitis A is most infectious from around 2 weeks before symptoms appear until about a week after symptoms first develop.

Find out more about the causes of hepatitis A

Vaccination against hepatitis A

Vaccination against hepatitis A is not routinely offered in the UK because the risk of infection is low for most people.

It's only recommended for people at an increased risk, including:

The hepatitis A vaccine is usually available for free on the NHS for anyone who needs it.

Find out more about the hepatitis A vaccine

Treatments for hepatitis A

There's currently no cure for hepatitis A. But it usually gets better on its own within a couple of months. You can usually look after yourself at home.

While you're ill, it's a good idea to:

Speak to your GP if your symptoms are particularly troublesome or have not started to improve within a couple of months.

They can prescribe medications to help with itchiness, nausea or vomiting, if necessary.

Find out more about treating hepatitis A

Outlook

For most people, hepatitis A gets better within 2 months and there are no long-term effects.

Once it passes, you normally develop life-long immunity against the virus.

In around 1 in every 7 people with the infection, the symptoms may come and go for up to 6 months before eventually disappearing.

Life-threatening complications such as liver failure are rare, affecting less than 1 in every 250 people with hepatitis A.

People most at risk include the elderly and those with pre-existing liver problems.

If you have hepatitis A and liver failure, you'll usually need a liver transplant.