Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. It is most common in developing countries that have poor sanitation and untreated water. Most cases are reported in people who have returned from overseas. It is an acute infection, and not a long term condition, which means that people usually get over it quite quickly. However, as part of the acute phase it can (although very rarely) cause life threatening liver damage.
There is now evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted sexually particularly in anal sex, as the virus is found in the faeces of infected people, and can be passed on through contact with infected faeces. Contaminated food and water, drug use (sharing needles) and person-to-person contact (sexual intercourse and skin contact) are the most likely ways for the virus to be passed on.
Like many STIs, the virus often has no symptoms, which is why it is important to get tested regularly. When symptoms do occur, they can include flu-like illness, weakness, tiredness, headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting. Jaundice (where the skin or whites of the eyes may appear yellow) may also occur if the liver becomes unable to remove bilirubin from the blood (a substance a normally functioning liver can remove).
You can get tested at our clinic, as part of our Hepatitis Screen. A blood sample is needed, and the same sample can also be used for other STD tests you may want to order including all those in our Full STD screen. Results are normally available the same day that the sample is received in the laboratory.
The majority of people do not need specific treatment other than rest, and they eventually make a full recovery in a few weeks, and then should be immune from further infections. However, it is important that the infection is monitored to check whether chronic disease develops, and the patient is given advice about the risk of passing the infection on. We will be able to advise you. You should avoid alcohol and maintain high personal hygiene standards to avoid passing the virus on.
You can choose to be vaccinated at our clinic, which can offer you excellent protection against the Hepatitis A virus. For more information see our vaccines page.
If left untreated, a chronic infection can mean that you are more at risk of contracting HIV and other STDs through unprotected intercourse. It can also cause chronic inflammation of the liver and may lead to liver cancer. Once you have had it you should have life long immunity to the virus.