Alternate Names : Hepatovirus Infection
Hepatitis A is an infection and inflammation of the liver caused
by the hepatitis A virus. It is one of several types of hepatitis.
What is going on in the body?
The liver is an important organ located in the upper right quadrant
of the abdomen. It is responsible for:
filtering the blood
making bile, a substance that aids in digestion and helps rid the body of
processing fats and sugars, helping the body store energy for later
making important proteins, such as those involved in blood clotting
metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and
vitamins A, B12,
D, and several of the B-complex vitamins. The liver also
iron and copper.
The liver is susceptible to hepatitis viruses. A hepatitis virus can cause
sudden, severe inflammation of the liver cells. Infection can occur at any
age. Classic yellowing of the eyes and skin, called jaundice, is usually the first sign of a problem.
Hepatitis A does not cause problems or disease in other parts of the body, as
other hepatitis viruses can.
After exposure to the virus, the hepatitis usually occurs within 2 to 4 weeks.
In industrialized countries, hepatitis A usually occurs in an epidemic setting. This
is a cluster of cases in a population that has previously been unexposed.
These cases in an epidemic can have a common source of exposure.
Some parts of
the world have persistent, ongoing cases in a large part of the population.
This hepatitis, called endemic hepatitis A, occurs in
What are the causes and risks of the infection?
Hepatitis A is generally spread by food and water that is contaminated with the
virus from an infected person. Rarely, it is spread when a person is exposed to
the blood of another person with acute hepatitis. The following groups have a higher
risk for this disease:
travelers to Third World countries