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What Causes Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that infects the liver, which can lead to inflammation and impaired liver function. The virus can be spread in a number of ways, but most people who contract hepatitis A get it by consuming food or water that has been contaminated with tiny, undetected amounts of stool from a person who is carrying the virus. There are several ways the virus transmission can happen, including:

  • Eating foods that were handled by an infected person who didn’t follow proper handwashing hygiene after using the bathroom
  • Consuming raw or undercooked foods, especially shellfish or seafood that was harvested in contaminated water
  • Drinking infected water while traveling in less-developed countries
  • Swallowing contaminated ice

Other Ways to Contract Hepatitis A

Children are often at higher risk for contracting hepatitis A because they tend to be less conscious than adults about washing their hands after using the bathroom and they frequently put their hands in their mouths. Particularly in daycare settings, these habits and the frequent touching of classmates can make transmission of the illness more likely – not only at the preschool but at home as well. Additionally, living with someone who has hepatitis A increases the risks of contracting it.

Some other ways the virus can spread include:

  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Blood transfusions (though this is rare)

Although hepatitis A is highly contagious, it rarely leads to permanent liver damage. Most people fully recover within a few weeks or months, but a few may develop complications that lead to liver disease and/or the need for a liver transplant.

If you or someone you know is dealing with liver disease, Tampa General Hospital’s Liver Disease and Hepatology Program is here to help. We work closely with TGH’s Transplant Institute, which is one of the busiest transplant centers in the nation, and can help patients who need a liver transplant get on the waiting list. The institute’s high volume of cases translates into extensive experience that has led to above-average survival rates. To learn more about our services, call 1-800-505-7769 today.