Te mate ate kakā A Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an infectious liver disease caused by a virus. It is rare in Aotearoa New Zealand, but more common in developing countries. If you are travelling overseas, ask your healthcare provider if you need the vaccine.

How hepatitis A spreads

Hepatitis A is uncommon in Aotearoa New Zealand. People usually get it overseas.

The hepatitis A virus can survive for long periods in food and water. It spreads by contact with an infected person's poo (faeces).

It can be passed on through:

  • not washing hands properly
  • contaminated food or water
  • close personal contact with someone who has the virus, including sexual contact.

Symptoms of hepatitis A

Some people with hepatitis A, especially tamariki, may have no symptoms at all. Adults usually have symptoms.

The following symptoms can show up at different times in different people.

Early symptoms

If you get hepatitis A, it will take 15 to 50 days for the symptoms to develop.

Early symptoms of hepatitis A infection can be mistaken for the flu. The usual symptoms are:

  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • yellow skin or eyes (jaundice) appearing in a few days.

You are usually most infectious from 2 weeks before jaundice (skin yellowing) starts, until 1 week after.

Later symptoms

As the illness develops, the usual symptoms are:

  • fever
  • yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • abdominal discomfort
  • fatigue, feeling tired (malaise)
  • dark urine.

Symptoms usually last for several weeks but less than 2 months. About 1 in 10 people have symptoms that last or come and go for up to 6 months.

Older people and people with chronic liver disease or with weakened immune systems can have more severe symptoms from hepatitis A.

Who to contact for medical advice

If you have symptoms that you are worried about:

  • contact your usual doctor or healthcare provider
  • call Healthline for free advice 0800 611 116
  • call 111 for an ambulance in an emergency.

Complications from hepatitis A

There are usually no long-term issues from hepatitis A. Most people recover completely.

In very rare situations hepatitis A can lead to issues such as liver failure or death.

Diagnosing hepatitis A

If you think you might have hepatitis A:

  • call or visit your healthcare provider
  • call Healthline on 0800 611 116

There is a blood test that checks for the disease.

Staying home

If you have hepatitis A, you should stay home. This means staying away from school, early childhood centres and work.

Most people need to isolate for 7 days from the start of yellow eyes or skin (jaundice).

Public health services will tell you how long you need to isolate for and give you other advice.

If you do not hear from them, call Healthline for more information.

Call Healthline: 0800 611 116

Close contacts may be given a vaccine or other treatment.

Treating hepatitis A

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. In most cases, your immune system will clear the infection and your liver will completely heal.

It can help to:

  • rest — hepatitis A can make you tired
  • protect your liver — avoid alcohol and review any medication you take with your healthcare provider.

Preventing hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is rare in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Immunisation is recommended for travel to some areas of the world. There are some high-risk groups of people who the vaccine is also recommended for.

Find out about the vaccine, who needs it and when to get it.

Hepatitis A vaccine (internal link)

Other ways to avoid hepatitis A

You can also protect yourself and your whānau in other ways. Wash your hands well with soap and water:

  • after using the toilet
  • after changing napies
  • before preparing or eating food.