Cannon: What to expect when you get the hepatitis

This is an archived article that was published on in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear People of Utah, Who've Contracted Hepatitis A This Summer:

I've read about you in the news recently, and I just want you to know I feel your pain. Why? Because our family spent the summer of 1989 in bed after all of us contracted viral hepatitis. Also, I was pregnant. So good times!

Here's how it went down.

One day I noticed our son's eyeballs were turning yellow — and not a pretty shade of yellow either. Not a shade of yellow, for example, that you would choose to pair with a lovely dove grey for a spring wedding.

So I took him to the doctor who told me our son had probably eaten too many carrots, because you know how 5-year-old boys are, always hurling themselves at the refrigerator door, begging for more carrots. Twinkies? Candy? Are you kidding me? Who wants to eat Twinkies and candy when there are carrots in the world?

I reported this surprising medical information to my mother who said she thought the doctor was possibly an idiot. And she was right (as mothers often are), because this son promptly began throwing up. Within a few days the rest of us had yellow eyeballs and were throwing up, too.

You know why? Because we all had the viral hepatitis, which (for the record) you do NOT get by eating too many carrots.

Anyway. Because of our experience, I'm writing this letter to those of you who've been recently afflicted, so you'll know what to expect in the coming weeks.

You're welcome!

1. You may get a visit from the health department people, who will strap bells around your neck and instruct you to shout UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN! whenever you go out in public.

2. Not that you'll feel like going out into public much. Kids roll through the hepatitis pretty quickly, but if you're an adult? Oy vey! The disease will cut you down. Hepatitis is Gen. William Tecumsah Sherman and you are the South. You'll spend a lot of time lying on your bed, praying for death while watching the Chicago Cubs on WGN. Which, BTW, will also make you pray for death.

3. Certain people will avoid you, possibly because you have bells around your neck and you shout UNCLEAN! whenever they approach you.

4. That's because hepatitis A is a disease with an unsavory reputation. Sort of like foot-and-mouth disease, which you get by eating food with your feet. Obviously. So listen up, all you citizens of America! Stop eating food with your feet!

5. On the other hand, you'll be surprised by the people who DO come out of the wordwork (usually in the dead of night when the neighbors aren't watching) to confess they once had the hepatitis, too. Who knew having hepatitis is such a bonding experience? Hepatitis is pretty great that way.

6. Now here's the good news. One day you'll look at yourself in the mirror and go, "Hey! My eyeballs aren't yellow!" Also, you'll feel like eating something besides chilled watermelon. That means you're on the road to recovery, my friends. Congratulations!

7. More good news? Especially if you're afraid of long needles? When you're asked to donate blood and you say you've had the hepatitis, people will say, "OK. Never mind."

See? There's always a silver lining.


Ann Cannon

Ann Cannon can be reached at or