If you have a young child who attends daycare or if you work as a childcare provider, you know how easily illness can spread. Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is easily spread in childcare settings. Learn more about hepatitis A and how it can be prevented.

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can cause flu-like symptoms, like:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of skin and/or eyes

Hepatitis A is often not serious, especially in young children. Symptoms usually last less than two months. In some cases, they may last as long as six months. In rare cases, the virus can cause liver failure and death. This is more common in people older than 50 years of age.

How Is Hepatitis A Spread?

Hepatitis A is spread when the virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects or foods that have been contaminated by the stool of an infected person. In childcare settings, this can happen easily, especially when hands are not washed after changing a soiled diaper.

Young children can have hepatitis A but show only mild symptoms or none at all. Hepatitis A is much more likely to cause symptoms in adults and older children. Because of this, outbreaks of hepatitis A may not be discovered until caregivers begin to show symptoms.

How Is Hepatitis A Treated?

Mild, flu-like symptoms are treated with rest, a balanced diet, and lots of fluids. If you or your child gets hepatitis A, talk to your doctor before taking any medications, including over-the-counter medications or supplements. Some medicines, like acetaminophen, could damage your liver if you take them while infected with hepatitis A.