What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver. Generally, it causes mild discomfort and occasionally can lead to complications. Hepatitis A has been increasingly affecting men who have sex with men across Europe, including Ireland.

How does someone get Hepatitis A?

Sexually acquired Hepatitis A is acquired by rimming and/or swallowing something that has been infected with faeces (poo).

What are the symptoms?

Most people notice no hepatitis symptoms at all especially in the early stages.

Symptoms of hepatitis A range from mild to severe, and can include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-coloured urine, pale faeces (poo) and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). Hepatitis A symptoms can take some weeks to appear after you have picked up the infection.

What does a hepatitis A test involve?

Testing for hepatitis A involves a blood test that looks for your body’s reaction to the infections (antibodies).

What does treatment involve?

Treatment for Hepatitis A usually involves making sure that you are not dehydrated and your blood salts are okay, sometimes this involves having a drip of fluids into your vein in hospital. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A and it usually clears on its own.

Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A infection does not lead to long term liver problems and is rarely fatal. It can cause debilitating symptoms and very occasionally acute liver failure, which can be fatal.

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis A?

Both hepatitis A and hepatitis B can be prevented with vaccination. The hepatitis A and B vaccines are freely available in sexual health services. Most centres use a combined vaccine given as three doses which protects you against both hepatitis A&B.