Hepatitis A is a type of viral infection which affects the liver. It can be passed on in various ways including sexually from some sex acts and as such can be considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Transmission of hepatitis A happens by an orofaecal route. Simply put, this means getting the faeces (shit) of an infected person into your mouth.
The most common cause of hepatitis A is eating food contaminated with faeces of an infected person as a result of poor personal hygiene or by drinking contaminated water (eg in places where there is poor sanitation).
Hepatitis A could also be acquired by getting small amounts of faeces in your mouth through sex acts such as rimming for example.
You can be vaccinated against hepatitis A which involves having two injections 6 months apart. You can get this vaccination at our nurse-led sexual health clinics or at GP and travel clinics. It is recommended that men who have sex with other men get vaccinated, as well as people travelling to countries where hepatitis A is more prevalent and where sanitation may be poorer than in the UK.
Symptoms can appear two to six weeks after infection and may include headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, joint and muscle pains and tiredness. After a while your skin and eyes may become jaundiced (turn yellow), and you may notice that your shit becomes paler and your wee darker, though not everyone gets such severe symptoms.
Hepatitis A is tested by taking a blood sample and can be tested for at our nurse led sexual health clinics. You can also ask your GP.
The only way of treating hepatitis A is based on making you feel as comfortable as possible until the infection passes. This means getting plenty of rest, a low-protein and high-carbohydrate diet, and avoiding fatty foods and alcohol. The illness generally clears up by itself within one to three months, causing no lasting damage. Once you have had hepatitis A you will be immune to catching it in the future.