Health conditions

Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis A, also called 'hep A' is a virus that causes liver inflammation or damage.
  • The hepatitis A virus is found in the faeces (poo) of people with the infection and usually spread by close personal contact (including sexual contact).
  • Deaths from hepatitis A are rare, but some people get very sick.

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and it can be caused by viruses such as hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is a different virus to hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

How did you get hepatitis A?

The hepatitis A virus is found in the faeces (poo) of people with the infection. It’s usually spread by close personal contact (including sexual contact) with a person infected with hepatitis A, or by eating or drinking contaminated (dirty) food or water.

Who is most at risk?

There is a very low risk of getting infected with hepatitis A virus in Australia.  You are most at risk of hepatitis A if you:

  • travel to other countries where hepatitis A is common.

Other risks for hepatitis A include

  • living with someone who has hepatitis A
  • not practicing good hygiene, especially hand washing
  • practicing oral-anal sex.

As young children have close contact with each other, it is easy for the virus to spread between them, especially if they’re still in nappies.


What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms usually appear about 4 weeks after infection. Common symptoms include:

  • tiredness
  • body aches and pains
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • fever and chills
  • upper stomach pain, usually on the right side
  • eyes or skin turning yellow (jaundice).

Young children often have no symptoms, but most older children and adults do. 

The symptoms usually last for a few weeks, but the tiredness can last longer.

How do I know I have hepatitis A?

Diagnosis is based on your symptoms and confirmed by a hepatitis A blood test.

If you think you or your child has hepatitis A, see your doctor as soon as possible.

How is it treated?

Talk to your doctor. There is no special treatment for hepatitis A. Most people get well on their own after a few months, but a few older children and adults may need to go to hospital. Lots of rest and a good diet help. You can only get hepatitis A once.

While you have the disease

  • People should not go to work, school or childcare for at least 1 week after jaundice develops.
  • Check with your doctor.
  • If you have hepatitis A, don’t prepare or handle other people’s food.

How can it be prevented?

If you have had close contact with a person infected with hepatitis A, see your doctor as soon as possible, as there are ways to stop or lessen the infection.

Hand washing and hygiene

Always wash your hands (use soap, and rub hands together really well for 15 seconds):

  • after going to the toilet
  • after changing nappies
  • before eating
  • before preparing food.

If hand-washing facilities are not available, use an alcohol-based gel.

The hepatitis A virus can survive in damp places for weeks. If you or a family member has hepatitis A, you need to clean all surfaces which could be contaminated with virus for at least 1 week after jaundice develops. This includes door handles, toilet seats and handles, taps and nappy change tables.

Safer sex

Wash your hands with soap and water after sexual contact and handling condoms or sex toys. Use of condoms and dental dams are the best way to protect you from infections.

Overseas travel

If you are travelling to places where hepatitis A is common (including most developing countries), take special care to avoid infections. Be very careful when you choose or prepare food and drink. ‘Cook it, peel it, boil it or forget it’ is good advice. See your doctor and discuss your travel plans at least 6 weeks in advance.

Is there a vaccine for hepatitis A?

Yes, you need two doses of the vaccine for best protection. There is also a combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine.

Who should be vaccinated?

Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for:

  • Aboriginal children in Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia
  • people travelling to places where hepatitis A is common (includes most developing countries)
  • people living or working in remote Aboriginal communities
  • staff in child care centres
  • sewage workers
  • sex workers
  • people with an intellectual disability and their carers
  • men who have sex with men
  • people who inject drugs
  • people with chronic liver disease.

Talk to your doctor if you are thinking about hepatitis A vaccination


Translated information about hepatitis A

Where to get help

Last reviewed: 05-11-2020
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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