Hepatitis A – Liver Infection Caused by a Virus, Feeling Tired and Joint and Muscle Pain
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus that’s spread in the poo of an infected person.
Hepatitis A can be unpleasant, but it’s not usually serious and most people make a full recovery within a couple of months.
Some people, particularly young children, may not have any symptoms. But hepatitis A can occasionally last for many months and, in rare cases, it can be life-threatening if it causes the liver to stop working properly (liver failure).
Symptoms of hepatitis A
The symptoms of hepatitis A develop, on average, around four weeks after becoming infected, although not everyone will experience them.
Symptoms can include:
- feeling tired and generally unwell
- joint and muscle pain
- a high temperature (fever)
- loss of appetite
- feeling or being sick
- pain in the upper-right part of your tummy
- yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- dark urine and pale stools
- itchy skin
The symptoms will usually pass within a couple of months.
How you can get hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is most widespread in parts of the world where standards of sanitation and food hygiene are generally poor, such as parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, the Middle East, and Central and South America.
You can get the infection from:
- eating food prepared by someone with the infection who hasn’t washed their hands properly or washed them in water contaminated with sewage
- drinking contaminated water (including ice cubes)
- eating raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated water
- close contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- less commonly, having sex with someone who has the infection (this is particularly a risk for men who have sex with men) or injecting drugs using contaminated equipment
Someone with hepatitis A is most infectious from around two weeks before their symptoms appear until about a week after the symptoms first develop.
Treatments for hepatitis A
There’s currently no cure for hepatitis A, but it will normally pass on its own within a couple of months. You can usually look after yourself at home.
While you’re ill, it’s a good idea to:
- get plenty of rest
- take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen for any aches and pains – ask your GP for advice about this, as you may need to take lower doses than normal or avoid certain medications until you’ve recovered
- maintain a cool, well-ventilated environment, wear loose clothing, and avoid hot baths or showers to reduce any itching
- eat smaller, lighter meals to help reduce nausea and vomiting
- avoid alcohol to reduce the strain on your liver
- stay off work or school and avoid having sex until at least a week after your jaundice or other symptoms started
- practise good hygiene measures, such as washing your hands with soap and water regularly
(Source: NHS Choices)