Hepatitis A can be passed on through oral-faecal (poo) pathway such as through anal rimming during sex, or from hand to mouth such as through contaminated food or water. Hand washing with warm water and soap after going to the toilet and during food handling and preparation will prevent non-sexual pathways of transmission. Dental dams or other barrier protection methods will prevent oral-anal transmission.
Hepatitis A is an acute infection, which will clear from the body (after a few weeks) and not lead to chronic infection or liver disease. It does, however, cause liver inflammation, and the most common symptoms are jaundice (yellowing of the skin and/or eyes), liver pain (under your right side ribs), nausea, fever, fatigue and loss of appetite. Symptoms are more common in older people than younger people. Sexual contact should be avoided during acute illness. There is no special treatment for hepatitis A – just plenty of rest, good diet, and fluids. Most people get well on their own, within a few months.
If you have previously had hepatitis A you cannot get it again (your body will have formed antibodies against it). To avoid hepatitis A altogether (as it can have very unpleasant symptoms lasting weeks, and in severe cases hospitalisation) a vaccine is available and is recommended especially for HIV-positive people. Ask your doctor if the hepatitis A vaccine may be suitable for you.
About Hepatitis A (HAV):
Hepatitis Queensland: 07 3846 0020 or 1800 437 222 or www.hepqld.asn.au