Hepatitis A virus infection causes a range of illness from mild through non specific nausea and vomiting through to hepatitis (liver inflammation, jaundice, or icterus) and rarely liver failure. Symptoms and severity of the illness are generally worse the older the person is when they become infected.
Hepatitis A virus was a common childhood infection in the early 20th Century but now in the 21st century it is an unusual infection in the UK. It is normally spread by the faecal-oral route but can also be spread occasionally through blood. Infection is prevented by good hygiene, especially hand washing, safe drinking water and food. Vaccination, passive or active, can be used to prevent groups at high risk including people who have been in contact with someone else who has the infection, travellers to countries where the infection is common, and other groups such as injecting drug users.
For further details, see the Guidelines for the control of hepatitis A virus infection. Public Health England Immunisation Division takes a lead for England in national surveillance of hepatitis A virus through statutory notifications (infectious jaundice since 1969, hepatitis A since 1987) and laboratory reports. The Immunisation Division provides advice and supplies human normal immunoglobulin for contacts of cases. This can be obtained by health professionals through the CDSC Duty Doctor service.