Hepatitis A can affect anyone. The virus is passed out in the faeces (bowel motions) of infected people. In areas of poor sanitation, or where disposal of sewage is poor, hepatitis A can become common due to contaminated water and food. This means you may become infected with hepatitis A by eating uncooked food prepared or washed in contaminated water, or by drinking contaminated water. Shellfish caught in contaminated water can also carry the hepatitis A virus. Someone who has hepatitis A infection may pass on the infection to others through preparing food, or through close contact with another person, if they have not washed their hands properly after going to the toilet. People who swim in fresh water such as rivers or lakes (even in Ireland) are also at risk of contracting hepatitis A.
Infection with hepatitis A virus can cause an unpleasant illness, but most people fully recover. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms and jaundice which then gradually clear without treatment. Serious problems are rare. Good personal hygiene (in particular, washing hands after going to the toilet) helps to prevent spreading the virus to others. Immunisation is advised before going to countries where hepatitis A is common the highest risk areas of the world for hepatitis A infection include: the Indian subcontinent (in particular India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal), Africa, parts of the Far East (except Japan), South and Central America, and the Middle East.