Enteric, Zoonotic and Vector-Borne Diseases
Hepatitis A is an acute infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A is easily transmitted from person-to-person, with most infections usually occurring as a result of ingestion of food or water contaminated by the feces of infected persons. Fecal-oral spread can also happen through direct person-to-person contact, including oral-anal sexual contact, or from contact with a contaminated environment.
Symptoms of hepatitis A usually develop 28 to 30 days after exposure to the virus, although this period can range from 15 to 50 days. Initial symptoms of hepatitis A may include fever, nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, followed by signs of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye). Hepatitis A can be asymptomatic, especially among children younger than six years of age.
Prevention of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A vaccine is publicly-funded in Ontario for:
men who have sex with men (MSM)
people who use intravenous drugs
people with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and C
The hepatitis A vaccine should be considered for other high risk groups including those who use non-injectable illicit drugs, individuals living in communities at high risk for hepatitis A outbreaks or travellers to endemic countries.
Good hygiene practices like washing hands after using the bathroom, after changing diapers and before preparing food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A.