Hepatitis A - What you need to know

There’s currently an outbreak of hepatitis A affecting men who have sex with men. So what is hepatitis A, and how do you protect yourself from it? Find out key information about hepatitis A below.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is inflammation of the liver which is caused by a viral infection. It can be unpleasant, but it's not usually serious and most people make a full recovery within a couple of months. For around 1 in every 7 people with the infection, the symptoms may come and go for up to 6 months before eventually passing.

How is it spread?

It is mainly spread through contaminated food, poor hand washing or sex. During sex it is mainly passed on when licking skin, condoms or sex toys which have faeces (poo) on them. This could include licking skin near the anus (rimming), buttocks, groin or penis (giving oral sex after anal sex).

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of hepatitis A develop, on average, around four weeks after becoming infected, although not everyone will experience them.

Symptoms can include:

  • feeling tired and generally unwell

  • joint and muscle pain

  • a high temperature (fever)

  • loss of appetite

  • feeling or being sick

  • pain in the upper-right part of your tummy

  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

  • dark urine and pale stools (poo)

  • itchy skin

What should I do if I think I have it?

If you think you might have hepatitis A, visit our sexual health clinic at Cobridge Community Health Centre.

What is the treatment for it?

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Your body will clear the infection but this can take several months. Speak to your GP if your symptoms are particularly troublesome or haven't started to improve within a couple of months. They can prescribe medications to help with itchiness, nausea or vomiting, if necessary. Once you clear the infection, you’re immune and cannot get it again - but you can still get other types of hepatitis.

How do I protect myself against it?

You can avoid getting hepatitis A by:

  • Washing your hands after sex (ideally buttocks, groin and penis too).

  • Changing condoms* between anal and oral sex

  • Covering anything which is shared during sex with a fresh condom* or fresh latex glove for each new person

  • Using a latex barrier (e.g. a condom cut into a square* or a dental dam*) for rimming

  • Using latex gloves for fingering or fisting

  • Not sharing sex toys

*You can pick up free condoms and dental dams from our Men's Group.

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