Hepatitis A Causes

The cause of hepatitis A is an infection with the hepatitis A virus. The hepatitis A virus is commonly spread by eating or drinking something that has been contaminated with the stool of an infected person. Symptoms are not always present, but when they are, hepatitis A causes stomach pain, sudden fever, nausea, and jaundice, among other things.

An Overview of Hepatitis A Causes

There is only one cause of hepatitis A -- an infection with the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The hepatitis A virus is an RNA virus that belongs to the genus hepatovirus of the Picornaviridae family.
When a person is infected with the hepatitis A virus, the virus is able to enter liver cells from the blood and then use those cells to make more copies of the hepatitis A virus. As more and more of the hepatitis A virus is made in the liver cells, they can become damaged and may even die.
A person infected with the virus may develop:
  • A sudden onset of fever
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Abdominal pain (stomach pain)
  • Yellowing of the skin or white of the eyes (known as jaundice).
However, not everyone infected with the hepatitis A virus will develop symptoms.
Unlike several other types of viral hepatitis, there is no chronic (long-term) infection seen with hepatitis A. Also, once you have had hepatitis A, you cannot get it again.

What Causes Hepatitis A to Spread?

Hepatitis A is most commonly spread by eating or drinking something (or putting something in your mouth, such as a utensil) that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. This type of transmission is called "fecal-oral" transmission. For this reason, the hepatitis A virus is more easily spread in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or where good personal hygiene is not observed.
Most infections result from contact with a household member or sex partner who has been infected. Casual contact, as in the usual office, factory, or school setting, does not spread the virus.
(Click Hepatitis A Transmission for more information.)

What Is Hepatitis A?

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