What is hepatitis A and how does it spread?
Hepatitis A is caused by contagious virus that infects the liver, and can lead to serious liver problems. There is a vaccine that prevents the virus.
The virus spreads through the feces (poop) of people who have the virus. If a person with the virus doesn’t wash his or her hands after going to the bathroom, feces can transfer to objects, food, drinks or drugs. When these things are shared, other people can unknowingly swallow the virus. If a person who has the virus comes in close contact with others—like during sex—the virus can also spread.
People at risk are:
- In direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A.
- Homeless or in unstable housing.
- Injection or non-injection drug users.
- Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common.
- Household members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common.
A person can have hepatitis A for up two weeks without feeling sick but during that time can spread the virus to others. Symptoms usually start two to six weeks after infection and last less than two months.
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
The vaccine and handwashing can stop the spread.
Talk to your health care provider or call your county health department (CHD) about the vaccine. Your CHD may have free or low-cost vaccine available.
Wash your hands after you use the bathroom—alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill hepatitis A germs. Use soap and warm, running water and wash for at least 20 seconds.
WASH BEFORE YOU: prepare food or work with food that isn’t already packaged.
WASH AFTER YOU: use the bathroom; touch people or public surfaces; change a diaper; cough, sneeze or use a tissue; use tobacco; and eat or drink.
Talk to your health care provider about getting vaccinated.
The hepatitis A information line is available to the public to answer questions regarding hepatitis A activity in Florida. The information line is available Monday – Friday 8am to 5pm during normal business hours.
The toll free number is 1-844-CALL-DOH (844-225-5364).
You may email your questions to: HepA@flhealth.gov