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Hepatitis A: Virus Facts for Families

Feb 25, 2019
Hepatitis A

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a virus that can cause acute inflammation of the liver. It is a vaccine-preventable infection.

Before the introduction of routine childhood immunization with the hepatitis A vaccine, infections most commonly occurred in school-aged children. Since then, the number of infections occurring in children have significantly decreased. The overwhelming majority of cases now occur in adults who grew up before the vaccine was developed.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

Most children younger than 6 years of age infected with hepatitis A virus will have no symptoms.

Older children and adults are much more likely to have symptoms, which typically include: fever, fatigue, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, yellowing of the skin and eyes (referred to as ‘jaundice’), light-colored stool and dark-colored urine.

How do children become infected with hepatitis A?

The hepatitis A virus is spread person-to-person by contact with the stool from an infected person, even in those who have no symptoms of infection. Young children may become infected in daycare settings that care for multiple diapered children. Children may also become infected during international travel, eating food prepared by a person infected with hepatitis A virus, or from close personal contact with a person infected with hepatitis A virus.

How is hepatitis A treated?

No specific treatment is available for hepatitis A virus. Children rarely require supportive care in the hospital for hepatitis A.

Infected children and adults usually recover within one month. Unlike other viruses that can cause inflammation of the liver, chronic infection does not occur with hepatitis A.

What can I do for my family to prevent hepatitis A?

  • Children 12 months of age and older should receive routine immunization with two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine separated by at least 6 months between doses, unless directed otherwise by their healthcare provider
  • Families with infants younger than 12 months of age who are planning international travel should discuss vaccination recommendations with their child’s healthcare provider
  • Certain adults may be eligible for vaccination as well depending on risk of exposure
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.

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Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Matthew Washam, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.