What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis means the inflammation of the liver and viral hepatitis are diseases that affect the liver.  The most common  types of hepatitis are A, B, and C.  Each type of hepatitis has different causes and symptoms.  Let’s look at hepatitis A in detail.

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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a virus that can affect the liver, and is the most common type of the Hepatitis viruses.  Hepatitis A can affect all age groups.  Once an individual is exposed to the virus, it can take from 2 to 6 weeks to show any symptoms of having contracted the virus.

How is Hepatitis A Transmitted?

Hepatitis A (HAV) is found in the feces of an infected person.  If a person eats or drinks food or water that has been contaminated with the feces that contains the Hepatitis virus, you can catch the virus.  Common sources of the Hepatitis A virus are fruits, vegetables, water, ice, and shellfish.  You can also catch the virus if you come in contact with the stool (feces) or blood of someone who has Hepatitis A.  Good hygiene is very important.  If a person with Hepatitis A does not properly wash his or her hands after going to the bathroom, and touches other objects or food, they can potentially spread the virus.  Another way that someone can get infected is through sexual activity such as anilingus (rimming).  Wash the genital and anal region before sex.  The use of condoms and dental dams can also help prevent passing on the virus.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

It is possible to experience mild or no symtoms; however the individual’s feces can still be infectious to others.  Symtoms usually show up 2 to 6 weeks after being exposed to the virus and can last up to a few months in adults.  Symtoms include:

  • Loss of appetitite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itchiness
  • Jaundice (yellow skin)
  • Abdominal pain

Tests

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to Hepatitis A, contact your healthcare provider.  Your doctor may perform a physical to check for an enlarged/tender liver.  Blood tests will also be performed.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for HAV.  Rest is recommended for severe conditions. Over 85% of patients with hepatitis A recover in 3 months and almost all get better in six months.  Your doctor will probably tell you to avoid alcohol and fatty foods as these can be hard for the liver to process and can aggravate the inflammation of the liver.

Hepatitis A Vaccine

There is a vaccine available for hepatitis A, and is given in a series of injections. The first single injection in the arm gives protection for a year. The second booster injection at 6 to 12 months extends protection for up to 10 years.  The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for children who in high area of Hepatitis A incidences, and for individuals who are traveling to countries in which the virus is prevalent.  Adults who engage in sexual actvities that put them at risk should also get the vaccine.  Your doctor may also recommend the immunisation to prevent hepatitis A developing if a person suspects they have been exposed to the virus.

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