Hepatitis A Virus Test

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Test Overview

The hepatitis A virus test is a blood test that shows whether you have a hepatitis A infection.

The test looks for antibodies made by the body to fight the virus. They will be in your blood if you have a hepatitis A infection now or have had one in the past.

  • Hepatitis A IgM antibodies can be found as early as 2 weeks after you are first infected. They disappear 3 to 12 months after the infection.
  • Hepatitis A IgG antibodies appear 8 to 12 weeks after you are first infected. They stay in your blood and protect you from hepatitis A permanently.

Why It Is Done

Hepatitis virus testing is done to:

  • Identify the type of hepatitis virus causing the infection.
  • Screen people who have a higher chance of getting or spreading hepatitis A. This includes doctors, dentists, and nurses.
  • Screen blood donors and donor organs. This is done to help prevent the spread of hepatitis A.
  • Find out if a person has antibodies after getting a hepatitis A vaccination. Having antibodies means the vaccine worked.
  • Find out if hepatitis A is the cause of abnormal liver function tests.

How To Prepare

You don't need to do anything special to prepare for this test.

Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form (What is a PDF document?) .

How It Is Done

The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure on the site and then put on a bandage.

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.


There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. You can use a warm compress several times a day to treat this.

Bleeding can be a problem for people who have bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medicines such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin). If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.


The hepatitis A virus test is a blood test that shows whether you have a hepatitis A infection.

The test looks for antibodies made by the body to fight the virus. They will be in your blood if you have a hepatitis A infection now or have had one in the past.

Hepatitis A test

No hepatitis A virus antibodies are found.


Hepatitis A antibodies are found. You may need more tests to find out if you have a present, active infection or a past infection that got better.

  • IgM antibodies are found if you have an active or a recent infection. These antibodies usually show up as early as 2 weeks after you become infected. They last for a few months after symptoms have gone away.
  • IgG antibodies are found if you had an infection in the past or have been vaccinated.

What Affects the Test

Your doctor will talk with you about anything that might keep you from having the test or that may change the test results.

Your results may need to be checked again if you are taking some herbs or other natural products.

What To Think About

  • Hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccination. To learn more, see the topic Immunizations.
  • You also may be able to prevent a hepatitis A infection even after you have been exposed to the virus if you get a hepatitis A vaccination or a dose of immunoglobulin . To learn more, see the topic Hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis antibodies can take weeks or months to develop, so they might not show up in a test done early in the infection.
  • Tests that show how well your liver is working are usually done if your doctor thinks you may have hepatitis. These tests may include measuring bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, alanine aminotransferase, and aspartate aminotransferase.
  • In many states, some types of hepatitis infections must be reported to the local health department. The health department can then send out a warning to others who may have been infected. This may include people who ate food served by a person who has the infection.
  • Hepatitis A virus does not cause long-term illness. There is no need for follow-up testing after the infection goes away.


Other Works Consulted

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology

Current as ofFebruary 6, 2015