Report of Notifiable Disease or Related Death form
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Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. Most people who contract hepatitis A recover fully after 1 to 2 weeks or in severe cases, several months. Asymptomatic infection is common, particularly in young children. Symptoms include:
Natural hepatitis A infection confers lifelong immunity.
Transmission of hepatitis A occurs via the faecal-oral route through exposure to food, drink or objects contaminated with the faeces of another person infected with hepatitis A. In Australia, most cases of hepatitis A are associated with:
Outbreaks have also been reported as a result of drinking or bathing in water contaminated by sewage, or by consumption of contaminated foods such as shellfish.
In 2017-19 an outbreak of hepatitis A occurred in South Australia among gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM). The public health response to this outbreak included a SA Health funded vaccination program for gay men and other MSM.
The incubation period is generally 15 to 50 days, usually 28 to 30 days.
Cases are considered infectious from 2 weeks prior to the onset of prodromal symptoms, to 2 weeks after symptom onset (or 1 week after the onset of jaundice, if it occurs).
On clinical suspicion of hepatitis A, request serology for hepatitis A IgM and IgG, and liver function tests (LFTs).
There is no test to detect hepatitis A during the incubation period and therefore testing of asymptomatic patients is not recommended.
Hepatitis A infection is a notifiable condition under the South Australian Public Health Act 2011. Notify any suspected or confirmed cases to the South Australian Communicable Disease Control Branch on 1300 232 282 (24 hours/7 days).
There is no specific antiviral treatment for hepatitis A. Rest, good fluid intake and alteration in diet may decrease symptoms. Severely ill people may require admission to hospital for supportive treatment.
Further information on the public health management of hepatitis A including vaccination and use of normal human immunoglobulin is available in the Hepatitis A National Guidelines for Public Health Units.
The hepatitis A vaccine provides 6 to 12 months of protection against hepatitis A infection within two weeks of administration, and lifelong protection if a booster dose is administered at least 6 months after the first dose.
The hepatitis A vaccine is provided free to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children only, as part of the National Immunisation Program at 18 months and 4 years of age.
The hepatitis A vaccine is also recommended (but not free) for certain at-risk groups (see Australian Immunisation Handbook for further information).
Post-exposure prophylaxis using hepatitis A vaccine or normal human immunoglobulin (NHIG) can prevent secondary cases in close contacts of hepatitis A cases. Further information on the public health management of hepatitis A is available in the Hepatitis A National Guidelines for Public Health Units. In South Australia, the Communicable Disease Control Branch coordinates the public health response to hepatitis A cases.