Your liver is the largest organ inside your body. It helps your body digest food, store energy, and remove poisons. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. One type, hepatitis A, is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The disease spreads through contact with an infected person’s stool. You can get it from
- Eating food made by an infected person who did not wash their hands after using the bathroom
- Drinking untreated water or eating food washed in untreated water
- Putting into your mouth a finger or object that came into contact with an infected person’s stool
- Having close contact with an infected person, such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill
Most people do not have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may feel as if you have the flu. You may also have yellowish eyes and skin, called jaundice. A blood test will show if you have HAV.
HAV usually gets better in a few weeks without treatment. However, some people can have symptoms for up to 6 months. Your doctor may suggest medicines to help relieve your symptoms.
The hepatitis A vaccine can prevent HAV. Good hygiene can also help. Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, after using the toilet, or after changing a diaper. International travelers should be careful about drinking tap water.