Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can be passed on by contact with the poos (faeces) of an infected person.

Hepatitis A is more common in developing countries.

If you have symptoms that could be hepatitis A call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.

If you are going to a developing country you may have a higher risk of catching hepatitis A. Consider getting immunised before you go to protect yourself. Your doctor can provide advice on this.

The virus is spread by contact with the faeces (poos) of an infected person. It can be passed on through:

  • not washing your hands properly
  • contaminated food or water – such as from an infected food handler, raw shellfish, commercially prepared salads, fruit, vegetables and frozen berries
  • close personal contact
  • sexual contact – especially by men

Common symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness
  • stomach upset, often with diarrhoea.

After a few days, people often notice that their urine goes dark, their eyes appear yellow, and the diarrhoea gets smelly and floats.

If you have symptoms that could be hepatitis A call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.

The illness can last from just a few days to several weeks. Adults and teenagers can be very ill with hepatitis A; it is usually more mild in children.

If you have hepatitis A you will be required to stay home to reduce the risk of passing on the virus to others. You can return to your normal life seven days after your skin or eyes first turned yellow (referred to as jaundice).

You will be given advice by public health on how to stay safe and how to reduce the risk of passing on the disease.

While isolating and at home you should also:

  • Avoid touching or preparing food
  • Avoid caring for others
  • Regularly wash and dry hands, and use hand sanitiser
  • Take special precautions when using the bathroom, including:
    • properly washing and drying your hands;
    • before and after use: disinfecting toilet seat; flush handles; basin; taps; and door handles;
    • using separate toothbrush, face cloths and towels
  • Using gloves if disposing of any soiled items, such as nappies, and wash soiled clothing in hot soapy, water.

People who have been in close contact with someone with hepatitis A within the previous two weeks should get a hepatitis A immunisation. In most situations, public health nurses will get in touch with people who have been in close contact and offer immunisation. If you have any questions, please contact your family doctor who can call the National Public Health Service - Northern Region.

If you have hepatitis A it’s important to get plenty of rest. You should also avoid drinking alcohol, to help protect your liver. If you take any medicine regularly you should speak to your doctor to make sure these are not harmful to your liver.

Most people with hepatitis A recover in a few weeks, but it can sometimes take months to get back to normal.

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

If you have need medical help you should call Healthline on 0800 611 116, or contact your doctor. If you become very unwell call 111.

Your doctor will most likely recommend you get a test around a week after being diagnosed with hepatitis A. This is to make sure your liver is recovering properly.

You may be told you are a close contact of someone with hepatitis A if, in the two weeks before a case got jaundice, or one week after this, you:

  • Lived with them
  • Had close physical or sexual contact
  • Cared for them (e.g. changing their nappies)
  • Ate food prepared by them
  • Attended the same early childhood education centre, as a worker, attendee, or potentially a family member of an attendee

If you are a close contact and aged over one year old, you will be advised to get the hepatitis A vaccine. This will be free and helps protect against the virus. It’s very safe. If you’re not sure if you’ve had it before there’s no risk to getting vaccinated again.

The vaccine will be free. Around six months later you will need to get a booster dose from your GP.

Hepatitis A is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals or laboratories will inform us when someone has it. This allows us to give advice about how to stop it spreading, and check that other people who have been in close contact with the person with the illness haven’t also been infected. Immunisation is the most effective way of preventing people who have been in close contact with someone who has had Hepatitis A from getting sick.



There are specific requirements for notifiable diseases in the Auckland region.

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Last updated 29.11.2022

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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