What is Hep A?
Hep A is an extremely contagious liver infection caused by a virus. While there is no treatment for the virus, the infection eventually goes away on its own. For people who have Hep A along with another form of hepatitis, such as Hep B or Hep C, the disease can be much more serious.
The Hep A virus is usually spread by putting something in your mouth that is contaminated with the virus. The virus is found in the feces of people with hepatitis A and is spread when the feces—even trace amounts—contaminates food or water.
Hep A may be passed when someone with the virus has prepared food, drink, or anything else you ingest without properly washing their hands after using the bathroom. Hep A can also be passed while rimming or during anal sex if, for example, fingers that come in contact with feces touch your mouth. It’s also possible to get Hep A while sharing certain items, such as drug equipment or cigarettes.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Hep A infection usually last less than two months and vary from person to person. Common symptoms include fever, fatigue, appetite loss, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dark urine, and yellowing of the eyes or skin.
The virus can be passed to others even if the person who has Hep A doesn’t feel sick or show symptoms. Once the virus goes away, it can no longer be passed, and the person will be immune to Hep A.
How do I know I have Hep A?
Your doctor will evaluate you and may run tests.
There’s a vaccine!
Luckily, there’s a safe and effective vaccine for Hep A that’s recommended for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. You’ll need two doses of the vaccine—usually about 6 to 12 months apart—to ensure long-term protection.
Ask your doctor if you’ve already had the vaccine. If neither of you are sure, it doesn’t hurt to get another. And while you’re at it, be sure to ask about getting the Hep B vaccine.