Hepatitis A (formerly known as infectious hepatitis) is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. The disease is not uncommon; approximately 30-40 cases are reported each year in Wisconsin. Hepatitis A is still very common in developing countries. Unlike hepatitis B and hepatitis C, hepatitis A does not result in a chronic infection, nor is it associated with liver cancer.
The hepatitis A virus enters through the mouth, multiplies in the body, and is passed in the stool, which becomes highly infectious. If careful handwashing with soap is not done, the virus can then be carried on an infected person's hands. From there, the virus can be spread to others by direct contact or by consuming food or drink that has been handled by that infected individual. In some cases, it can be spread by consuming water contaminated with sewage. Because the virus is passed in the stool, children with hepatitis A who are not toilet trained can be an important source of the infection.
A highly effective vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis A.