Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A, otherwise known as hep A, is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It causes inflammation and affects your liver’s ability to function. Hepatitis A can range in severity, from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.  Vaccines are available at the Mesa County Public Health Immunization Clinic. Because of the hepatitis A outbreak Colorado is experiencing, there are also community vaccination clinics being held in Mesa County.

Hepatitis A vaccination clinics

Free hepatitis A vaccine is available for those who are at a high risk of infection.  These are people experiencing homelessness, people who inject drugs, and people who have been incarcerated.  Contact the Mesa County Public Health Clinic at 970-248-6900, or stop by our clinic, located at 510 29 1/2 Road.

Symptoms

Some people, particularly young children usually do not show symptoms.  Symptoms usually occur suddenly.  They can include the following:

  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Yellow skin and/or eyes (jaundice)

If you develop symptoms or believe you have been in close personal contact with a person who has hepatitis A, seek care from your primary care provider or from an emergency department as soon as possible.

How do you get it?

The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of an infected person and is easily spread from one person to another.

  • By eating food contaminated by a person not washing their hands after using the bathroom. Both uncooked and cooked foods may be contaminated.
  • From sharing meals or housing, through sexual contact, or by sharing injection drug equipment with a person who has hepatitis A.
  • By drinking contaminated water (this is extremely rare in the United States).

What is the difference between hepatitis A, B, and C?

  • Hepatitis A is spread by eating food or water contaminated with invisible amounts of feces. A vaccine can prevent hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis B is spread through sexual contact, or by sharing needles. A vaccine can prevent hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis C is spread through sexual contact, or by sharing needles. There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C.

Having one type of viral hepatitis in the past does not protect a person from getting other types.

For more information or questions, call Mesa County Public Health at 970-248-6900.

Can hepatitis A be serious?

Hepatitis A can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. It’s uncommon but hepatitis A can cause death. People who are older or have health conditions, including hepatitis C, are at higher risk of dying from hepatitis A.

Facts about hepatitis A

Check out this fact sheet for more information.

Sources:

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