During a common source outbreak of hepatitis A, we studied the characteristics and utility of commercially available radioimmunoassays for total and IgM-specific antibody to hepatitis A virus. IgM hepatitis A antibody was detectable In all serum specimens obtained up to 119 days following onset from the seven persons with hepatitis A, and as long as 347 days in one person. Acute infection could also be documented by a four-fold or greater increase in titers of hepatitis A antibody, although as long as nine weeks was required between the times acute and convalescent specimens were obtained. The radioimmunoassay for IgM-specific to hepatitis A antibody had greater specificity (99 percent versus 84 percent) and a higher positive prediction value (88 percent versus 23 percent) for the diagnosis of acute hepatitis A than did the radioimmunoassay for hepatitis A antibody. Uses of the radioimmunoassay for IgM-specific hepatitis A antibody include rapid diagnosis of acute hepatitis A, differentiation between recent and past hepatitis A infection, and screening for recent hepatitis A infection in epidemiologic investigation.