Hepatitis A


Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It leads to inflammation (swelling) of the liver.

Some people with hepatitis A do not have any symptoms. Others have flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, abdominal pains or jaundice (see Symptoms of hepatitis A for more information).

Hepatitis A is the most common type of viral hepatitis.

Who is affected by hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is not very common in the UK. It is more common in countries where sanitation and sewage disposal are poor, particularly countries in Africa, northern and southern Asia, central America and southern and eastern Europe.

Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended if you are travelling to countries in these areas.

Hepatitis A can occur at any age but mostly affects children and young adults.

How do you catch hepatitis A?

The hepatitis A infection is usually caught by putting something in your mouth that has been contaminated with the stools (faeces) of someone with hepatitis A.

The incubation period (the time from coming into contact with the virus to developing the infection) is approximately two to six weeks.


Hepatitis A is usually an acute (short-term) infection. Many people recover within a couple of months without treatment. Though the symptoms can be unpleasant, hepatitis A is rarely serious.

Once you have recovered from hepatitis A, you are immune from it and can never catch the infection again.

Hepatitis A is a notifiable condition. This means that when the condition is diagnosed, the doctor making the diagnosis must inform the local authority.

Viral Hepatitis service for Scotland 

NHS inform , Scotland's national health information service, provides the Viral Hepatitis Service for Scotland.

The helpline provides a single point of health information about viral hepatitis for patients, the public and professionals involved in providing care and support for people affected by viral hepatitis. 

Supported by the Scottish Government, the helpline has been developed by NHS 24 in partnership with Hepatitis Scotland.

The helpline is available on 0800 22 44 88 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days a week.

Last updated: 07 August 2012

Continue to next section: Symptoms of hepatitis A