Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A Outbreak Information

What is hepatitis A?

Is hepatitis A contagious?

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

What should I do if I have been exposed to hepatitis A or get sick with hepatitis A?

What makes hepatitis A so serious?

Who is at risk for hepatitis A?

What is the best way to prevent hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A Information for Food Establishments


What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver. You can prevent it with a vaccine.

Is hepatitis A contagious?

Yes. People who have hepatitis A can spread it to others. The virus spreads through infected poop. You can get hepatitis A if you put something in your mouth (food, water, hands) that has infected poop on or in it. The item can have the virus on it even if it looks clean.

Hepatitis A usually spreads among close contacts, like family members.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

Symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Low appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine (pee)
  • Pale poop
  • Jaundice (yellow color to the whites of the eyes or skin)

Most adults, teens, and older children (over six years) will get symptoms. These symptoms usually show up two to six weeks after they get infected with hepatitis A. People can spread the virus even when they don't have symptoms.

Most children under six years of age do not get symptoms.

People who get hepatitis A usually get better within two months. Some people can be sick for as long as six months.

If you do get sick with hepatitis A, you cannot get the virus again.

What should I do if I have been exposed to hepatitis A or get sick with hepatitis A?

Call your doctor, nurse, or clinic, or your local health department. They will tell you the steps to take next.

If you were exposed to hepatitis A recently and you haven't gotten the hepatitis A vaccine, you should get the vaccine within two weeks. If you are over age 40 or have health conditions that put you at high risk for the disease, a doctor or clinic may give you something called immune globulin as well as the vaccine.

There is no special treatment for hepatitis A. Doctors usually ask that you rest, eat healthy food, and drink lots of fluids. Share your full health history with your doctor because you may need to stop taking certain medications.

Is hepatitis A a serious illness?

Some people with hepatitis A get so sick they need to stay in the hospital. Hepatitis A can sometimes cause liver failure and death. This is rare, and happens more in people age 40 or older, and people with other liver diseases like hepatitis B or C.

Who should get hepatitis A vaccine?

  •  Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for: All children at 1 year of age
  • All older children and adolescents who have not already gotten hepatitis A vaccine
  • Pregnant people
  • People living with HIV infection
  • People who are homeless or in unstable living situations, including shelters
  • People who use drugs, either injection or non-injection
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People in, or recently out of jail or prison
  • People who are exposed to a hepatitis A outbreak (for example, if you ate at a restaurant where a recent hepatitis A outbreak took place)
  • People who travel to countries with high rates of hepatitis A
    • This includes countries in Central and South America, Asia (except Japan), Africa, Eastern Europe, and Mexico. If you plan to go to one of these areas you should get your first dose of hepatitis A vaccine at least four weeks before you travel.
    • Babies 6 through 11 months traveling outside of the US should get 1 dose. This travel dose does not count toward the series. These children should still get two doses starting at 1 year of age.
  • Family and close contacts of an adopted child who recently arrived from a country with high rates of hepatitis A
  • People who live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis A
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People who work with nonhuman primates (such as monkeys) that are infected with hepatitis A or
  • work with hepatitis A in a research laboratory setting
  • Any person who wants to be immune to hepatitis A

How can I prevent hepatitis A?

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is with the hepatitis A vaccine. Visit our hepatitis A vaccine page for more information.

You can also stop the spread of germs by washing your hands well. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds after you use the bathroom or change a diaper, and before you make or eat food.

Information for Food Establishments

There is not a routine recommendation for food workers, but if food handlers want protection from hepatitis A, you can be vaccinated. Talk to your staff about health and sanitation when working with food. Food service workers must tell their manager right away if:

  • They have diarrhea or vomiting: The employee must stay away from the food establishment until at least 24 hours after the symptoms stop.
  • They have jaundice (yellow color to skin and whites of the eyes) or are diagnosed with hepatitis A. The manager or owner must report these illnesses to the local health department.
  • They are a close contact of someone diagnosed with hepatitis A in the past 30 days. The employee must not touch ready-to-eat foods (like salads, sandwiches or other uncooked items) for at least 30 days.
  • Post handwashing reminder signs and train your employees to wash their hands well.
  • Monitor your employees for proper handwashing.
  • Utensils like tongs and forks, and barriers like food service gloves help stop the spread of hepatitis A. Workers should not touch ready-to-eat food with their bare hands.
  • Make sure workers properly clean and sanitize surfaces. Follow these special cleaning and disinfecting guidelines.

Hepatitis A Resources

Hepatitis A (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Viral Hepatitis (CDC)

Traveler's Health (CDC)

Hepatitis A Is a Serious Liver Disease (PDF) (Immunization Action Coalition)

Information for Public Health and Health Care Providers

Notifiable conditions: Hepatitis A (Washington State Department of Health)

Ask the experts: Hepatitis A (Immunization Action Coalition)

For More Information

Communicable Disease Epidemiology 206-418-5500 or toll free 877-539-4344

Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Program 360-236-3498 or toll free 866-917-4HEP

Immunization Program 360-236-3595

Food Program 360-236-3330.