You may have heard of the Hepatitis B virus and the Hepatitis C virus, but the virus that consistently flies under the radar is Hepatitis A.

This is surprising because the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is much more common than the B and C strains, though it can be just as serious.

In this article, we’ll explore how HAV is spread and what symptoms to look out for.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is an infectious disease of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV).

Hepatitis A occurs both sporadically and in epidemics across the globe, often exhibiting cyclic recurrences. Outbreaks associated with contaminated food or water can arise suddenly and unexpectedly.

Prolonged transmission through person-to-person contact can also have a lasting impact on communities, extending for months. Hepatitis A viruses have the ability to persist in the environment and withstand the food production processes commonly employed to deactivate or manage bacterial pathogens.

Transmission through food and water

Hepatitis A is primarily transmitted through contaminated food, water, or surfaces with faecal matter that contains the virus.

Poor hygiene practices and unsanitary conditions facilitate the spread of the virus. People can contract the virus when they come into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, such as doorknobs, toilet handles, or utensils.

A Hepatitis A infection can be prevented through proper hand washing, cooking food thoroughly, and avoiding the consumption of water from unknown sources.

In addition, vaccination is an excellent way to protect yourself from the virus and is highly recommended for people travelling to regions where Hepatitis A is prevalent.

Transmission through sexual contact

Hepatitis A can also spread through sexual contact, including anal, oral, or genital intercourse, with an infected person.

The virus is present in the faeces, and thus, engaging in sexual activities that could lead to contact with faecal matter can increase the risk of transmission. This includes sex without a condom, rimming, or engaging in sexual activities that involve fingers or toys that could have come into contact with an infected individual’s faeces.

It’s essential to note that people with Hepatitis A may not necessarily show symptoms, making it hard to know if they are infected. Therefore, it’s vital to be aware of your partners’ sexual history and to practice safe sex.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

After infection, symptoms of Hepatitis A may appear within two to seven weeks and include fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice, among others. Not everyone who is infected will have symptoms.

Adults tend to exhibit signs and symptoms of illnesses more frequently than children. Moreover, the severity of diseases and the risk of fatal outcomes are higher among older individuals. In contrast, infected children below the age of 6 typically do not manifest noticeable symptoms, with only a mere 10% developing jaundice. It is worth noting that Hepatitis A can occasionally relapse, whereby an individual who has recently recovered falls ill again with another acute episode.

Long-term health effects of Hepatitis A

Untreated Hepatitis A can have severe long-term health effects, particularly on the liver.

In rare instances, Hepatitis A can cause severe liver damage known as Fulminant Hepatitis. This condition, characterised by rapid deterioration of liver function, can lead to complications such as liver failure, which may require a liver transplant or can even be life-threatening.

Elderly people and individuals with pre-existing liver conditions are particularly at risk of these severe outcomes. Thus, it’s crucial to seek medical intervention promptly if Hepatitis A is suspected.


Hepatitis A is a preventable and treatable condition. Understanding how the virus spreads is crucial in preventing further infections and protecting your health. Proper hygiene practices, sanitation, and vaccination are effective ways to prevent the virus’s spread.

Sexual contact is also a significant mode of transmission for Hepatitis A. Engaging in safe sex practices such as using condoms, avoiding risky sexual behaviours, and getting tested and treated for STIs will protect you and your partners from contracting and spreading the disease.

Better2Know’s STI tests are an excellent resource for people concerned about their sexual health. We offer various STI testing options and can help you get the accurate and confidential results you need to protect yourself and your partner.

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