Hepatitis A is liver inflammation caused by the hepatitis A virus. The Hepatitis A virus can be found in the blood and stools of the infected person. It may take 15 to 45 days before symptoms appear.
How can you become infected with Hepatitis A?
You can get the hepatitis A infection if an infected person doesn’t clean his/her hands appropriately after going to the bathroom and then touches food or objects that you come into contact with. You can also get hepatitis A if you come into contact with the blood or stool of an infected person. It is important for caregivers of infected persons to wear gloves when coming into contact with bodily fluids and feces. You can become infected if you eat food that has been contaminated by the hepatitis A virus. Things like water, ice, vegetables, fruits and shellfish are sometimes sources of the hepatitis A virus. If you engage in sexual practices with an infected person, you could be exposed to the virus.
People at risk factors for hepatitis A include:
— People who use IV drugs
— People traveling internationally
— People living in rehab centers and nursing homes
— People working in the food, health care or sewage industry
Other hepatitis virus infections include hepatitis B as well as hepatitis C. Hepatitis A is the least dangerous and mildest of the three. Other hepatitis infections can turn out to be chronic; however, hepatitis A doesn’t manifest into a chronic infection.
Symptoms of hepatitis A
The symptoms of hepatitis A are generally mild, but they can last for several months. The symptoms include dark urine, fatigue, and loss of appetite, low grade fever, and itching. Other symptoms include pale colored stool, nausea and vomiting and yellow skin. Yellow skin is known as jaundice.
How is hepatitis A diagnosed?
The doctor will do a physical examination to find out if you have an enlarged liver. The physician will also check for tenderness in the area of the liver also. Then the doctor will test for antibodies for hepatitis A (IgM is generally positive before the IgG). Hepatitis serology tests will possibly show raised IgG and IgM antibodies. The liver enzymes will also probably be elevated.
How is hepatitis A treated?
There is no definite treatment available for hepatitis A. People having acute hepatitis, should avoid drinking alcohol as well as any substances which are toxic to the liver. Even acetaminophen could be toxic for someone with hepatitis A. People with this disease should also avoid fatty foods because this can cause nausea and vomiting.
If you have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus, but you have never had the disease, you should ask your doctor about getting the hepatitis A vaccine as well as the immunoglobulin vaccine.
Your doctor may suggest that you get both of these vaccines if:
— You live with someone with hepatitis A
— You had sex with someone with the disease
— You take illegal drugs with someone having the disease
— You use dirty needles to inject illegal drugs
— You have eaten restaurant food that was handled by infected persons
To avoid spreading the virus or coming into contact with the virus, always wash your hands carefully after using the restroom. Wear gloves, if you are a caregiver and must come into contact with bodily fluids and fecal matter. Always avoid unhygienic food and water. Careful hand washing before and after serving food, changing diapers and after using the restroom can help to prevent outbreaks of hepatitis A.