Hepatitis A

What is it?

Hepatitis A is a virus that causes liver disease. There are no long-term health problems associated with the virus


Hepatitis A is preventable through good hygiene and sanitation. The virus is present in the feces of an infected person, and spread occurs when an uninfected person puts something in his/her mouth that is contaminated with the stool of an infected person, even if the item appears clean. Most infections result from contact with a household member or sexual partner who has the virus. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, and before preparing or eating food. Hepatitis A can also be acquired through infected drinking water and consuming food prepared by someone with the virus.

There is a vaccine for Hepatitis A, but it is only recommended for the following populations:

  • Men who have sex with men.
  • Persons traveling to areas with high Hepatitis A rates. Contact Student Health prior to international travel to determine what vaccinations you may need.
  • Illegal drug users.
  • Persons who work with primates or with Hepatitis A in medical laboratories.
  • Persons with chronic liver disease.
  • Persons with blood clotting disorders.


Symptoms will appear 15-50 days after infection and may include jaundice (yellowing of skin), fatigue, dark urine, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea or fever. Most infected people will have symptoms that last less than two months. For about 15% of people, however, the symptoms may be prolonged or relapsing for six to nine months.


If you think you may have Hepatitis A, contact Student Health for an immediate appointment at (215) 662-2853. The doctor will do a blood test to determine if you have the virus. Usually, a doctor will instruct you to rest in bed and restrict alcohol consumption for several weeks. You may be issued prescription medications to ease symptoms.

If you will be traveling internationally, you may need the Hepatitis A vaccination if your destination has high rates of the disease. Contact Student Health to determine which vaccines you need prior to traveling. Be aware that some vaccines take weeks or even months to become effective protectors against disease, so contact Student Health well before you depart.

Viral Hepatitis A Fact Sheet,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. February 19, 2003.

What I Need to Know About Hepatitis A,” National Institutes of Health, National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. December 2001.