Hepatitis A is an acute infection (short-term but often severe) that causes inflammation of the liver. While it’s not a very common virus in Australia, and most people reach adulthood without getting it, hepatitis A is more prevalent in some other countries so you may want to consider getting a vaccination if you plan to travel overseas.
Hepatitis A is usually passed on when:
- Infected faecal matter enters the mouth through rimming or arse play
- You don’t wash your hands after sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- You don’t wash your hands after going to the toilet
- You use eating or drinking utensils previously handled by an infected person
How can I tell if I have hepatitis A?
The best way to find out if you have hepatitis A is to get tested. Some symptoms may include:
- A fever or mild flu-like symptoms
- Weakness and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Joint and muscle pain
- Jaundice (where your skin and/or eyes go yellow and your urine is dark)
If you have hepatitis A, you are considered infectious for a week after the onset of symptoms. Symptoms can last for two weeks to two months. Some people, especially children, don’t get sick when they contract hepatitis A. Hepatitis A doesn’t cause a chronic (long-term) infection, and most people recover completely.
How do I test for hepatitis A?
You will be given a blood test to see if you have contracted hepatitis A. This can be done at your GP or a sexual health clinic.
How can I get treated?
There is no medical treatment for hepatitis A. What is recommended is rest, drinking plenty of water and fluids, avoiding alcohol and having a well-balanced, low-fat diet.
Once you have had and cleared hepatitis A, you will become immune to it, meaning you cannot get it again.
How can I prevent getting hepatitis A?
You can get a two-dose vaccination course with the second dose given six to 12 months after the initial vaccination.
You can also get a hepatitis A and B combination vaccination, and in this instance, three doses of the vaccine are required.
Also, to prevent contracting hepatitis A, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, and before and after sex (especially arse play). You can also consider using dams when you’re rimming.
What if I’m HIV positive?
If you’re poz, it’s recommended to get vaccinated for both hepatitis A and B. The vaccination will not affect your HIV treatments.
If I’m on PrEP, how will Hepatitis A affect me?
PrEP is a highly effective tool in the prevention of HIV, however it does not protect you from hepatitis A. One of the best ways to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated.
FAST FACTS ABOUT HEPATITIS A
- Hepatitis A is usually contracted via faecal-to-oral transmission
- Symptoms include fever, jaundice and nausea
- Once you have had hepatitis A, you can’t get it again
- There’s no treatment for hepatitis A, but it doesn’t cause a long-term infection
- The best way to prevent getting hepatitis A is to get a vaccination course