Health Encyclopedia

Hepatitis A Antibody

Does this test have other names?

IgM, IgM anti-HAV 

What is this test?

This test looks for antibodies in your blood called IgM. The test can find out whether you are infected with the hepatitis A virus (HAV).

Hepatitis is an inflammation of your liver, often caused by an infection. Most hepatitis infections are caused by 1 of 5 viruses: hepatitis A, B, C, D, or E. Because the symptoms of all of these infections are similar, this blood test can tell your healthcare provider which type of virus you may have.

Your immune system makes IgM antibodies when you are first infected with HAV. It can take 14 to 50 days to develop symptoms of hepatitis A after you become infected. The average time to get symptoms after you are infected is 30 days. IgM antibodies usually begin to appear in your blood 5 to 10 days before you start having symptoms and can stay in your blood for about 6 months after the infection.

You can get HAV by eating or drinking a food or beverage contaminated with the virus. The virus is also in the bowel movements of infected people, so you could get infected by coming in contact with someone who has the infection. In rare cases, you can get the virus from a contaminated needle. 

HAV infection usually clears up on its own within a few weeks or months. Once you have had HAV, you will probably never have it again. This is called having immunity to the infection.  

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if your healthcare provider suspects you may have a liver infection caused by HAV. Your provider may order this test if you have symptoms of HAV and you have a history that puts you at risk for being in contact with the virus. Risk factors for HAV include:

  • Traveling to a country with high rates of HAV infection

  • Having contact with or eating contaminated food

  • Being in close contact with a person who has HAV

  • Having sex with someone infected with HAV

  • Being a man who has sex with men

  • Working at a healthcare or daycare center

  • Sharing needles for IV (intravenous) drug use

Symptoms of HAV usually start suddenly and may include:

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Stomachache

  • Fever

  • Light-colored stools

  • Yellow color of skin, eyes, and urine (jaundice)

Some people, especially children, may have HAV without symptoms. 

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your healthcare provider may also check for antibodies to other types of hepatitis viruses. You may need other blood tests to check how your liver is working. Other tests for HAV are available, but the HAV antibody test is considered to be the most accurate.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare provider.

Normal results are negative, meaning that you don't have the hepatitis A IgM in your blood.

If your test is positive or reactive, it may mean:

  • You have an active HAV infection

  • You have had an HAV infection within the last 6 months 

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

No other factors can affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. 


Medical Reviewers:

  • Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
  • Snyder, Mandy, APRN