What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is an acute infection of the liver caused by hepatitis A virus. There are usually around 300-500 cases of hepatitis A infections in England and Wales reported to PHE each year.
Children infected by hepatitis A often have no symptoms and in adults 70-80% develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Severity of illness increases with age and a large proportion of older adults may need to be admitted to hospital. Sudden and severe hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) can occur but is rare. Death as a result of hepatitis A infection is also rare (less than 1%).
The average time between becoming infected with hepatitis A and developing symptoms is 28 days (with a range of 15-50 days).
How is hepatitis A spread?
The virus is transmitted by the poo of an infected person (faecal–oral route) through person to person spread or contaminated food or drink.
Foodborne outbreaks have previously been reported following ingestion of certain shellfish (bivalve molluscs such as mussels, oysters and clams that feed by filtering large volumes of sewage polluted waters), salad vegetables, sun dried tomatoes and frozen and fresh berries.
Is there a vaccine for hepatitis A?
Safe and highly effective vaccines against hepatitis A are available to prevent infection. Vaccination is not routinely offered in the UK and is offered to those that are at high risk of infection and to prevent infection in those who have been exposed to other cases of hepatitis A.
I have eaten dates what do I need to do?
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please contact your GP:
• jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
You do not need to contact your GP or NHS111 unless you have symptoms. You do not need to be vaccinated if you have eaten dates.
Why does the NHS website say anyone who feels they may have been exposed to hepatitis A and is not showing symptoms should still contact their GP?
Eating dates is not considered a sufficient exposure to need vaccination. We only advise people who have been in close contact (family or household contacts) with other people with hepatitis A to have a vaccine.
What if someone amongst my family or a household contact has hepatitis A?
We advise that people who have been in close contact with other people who have had hepatitis A are vaccinated if it is within 14 days of exposure to a case. This is normally routinely organised by local health protection teams following notification of a new diagnosis of hepatitis A.
How to prevent spread of hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A virus is spread from person-to-person by the faecal-oral route. Good hygiene, principally thorough hand washing with soap and hot water after toilet use, changing babies nappies and before eating and preparing food is important to prevent the spread of the virus.
As faecal-oral transmission can occur during sex, particularly among men who have sex with men, good hygiene after sex and use of protection during sex is also important.
I’ve been vaccinated for hepatitis A in the past, do I need a booster?
If you have had two doses of hepatitis A vaccine you will be fully protected for up to twenty-five years.
Treatment for hepatitis A?
There are no specific treatments for hepatitis A infection, symptoms are treated accordingly.
If you are symptomatic please contact your GP or call 111.