Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. The infection is generally mild, but the severity can increase with age or in those who already have liver disease. Most people who catch hepatitis A make a full recovery within a couple of months and afterwards have lifelong immunity from the disease.
The virus is usually spread through food and water that has been contaminated with human faeces (poo), either through drinking unclean water, eating food that’s been grown or washed using unclean water, eating food that has been handled by a person with hepatitis a, or close contact (including sexual contact) with someone who is already infected.
Hepatitis A is most common in parts of the world without access to clean water and good sanitation, such as parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, the Middle East, Central America and South America.
It is not common in the UK, but some groups are at increased risk. This includes men who have sex with men and drug users who inject drugs, as well as people who travel to countries where the disease is common.
In Europe and the UK, there is currently an increase in the number of cases of hepatitis A, mainly among men who have sex with men (MSM). Over 60% of UK cases so far have been in London. Public Health England is encouraging MSM to practice good personal hygiene and ask about hepatitis A vaccination at their sexual health clinic appointments.