Hepatitis A is a highly contagious, viral infection that leads to acute inflammation of liver. Hepatitis A has become very uncommon in the United States and after the advent of hepatitis A vaccine; its occurrence has declined to about 95%. However, it is very common in the developing countries including parts of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Central and South America. It is more common in young children and adults over the age of 50.
How Is Hepatitis A Virus Transmitted?
Generally, hepatitis A virus is transmitted through contamination of food and water with the fecal matter of an infected person. It can also be spread by foods prepared by an infected person. People who are at a higher risk of developing hepatitis A include individuals living with someone who has active hepatitis A, sharing of contaminated needles, having unprotected sex with an infected person, homosexual men, traveling to developing countries where hepatitis A is very common and children in child care and their teachers.
It is not spread by sneezing, coughing, hugging and being near an infected person. It is also not transmitted by a lactating mother to her child.
What Are The Symptoms of Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A may present with no symptoms in young children and in some, it may present 2 to 6 weeks after coming in contact with the virus. The symptoms when present usually last few weeks, but in some individuals they may last up to 6 months. The symptoms when present may look like flu symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle soreness, abdominal discomfort and pain, fever, diarrhea, gray or clay colored stools and decreased appetite. Symptoms that are more specific of liver inflammation include dark yellow urine, and jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes).
What is The Diagnosis and For Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is diagnosed based on the symptoms and blood test. A blood test usually confirms hepatitis A with the detection of hepatitis A antibodies against the virus.
Can You Be Cured of Hepatitis A?
Generally, hepatitis A gets better in a few weeks without any treatment. However, in some the symptoms can last as long as 6 months. The doctor may give palliative treatment to the patient that includes rest, staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet and abstaining from alcohol until and unless one has recovered completely. Doctor may also give medications to relieve symptoms of hepatitis A. Thus, a patient recovers fully and is cured from hepatitis A without developing any complications. There are no long-term effects of hepatitis A, but there are chances of recurrence of the infection within 6-9 months in 10-15% of cases, according to CDC. Liver failure is considered a very rare complication of the disease.
If the symptoms persist for long, greater than 6 months then one should visit a doctor. The doctor will usually get liver function test done to see optimal functioning of liver and to see whether it is healing or not.
Hepatitis A can be prevented by staying away from contaminated food and water, maintaining good hygiene by washing hands after using toilet and before eating, using bottled water and washing fruits and vegetables when in a developing country.
A person can also avoid getting hepatitis A by receiving hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccines are attenuated forms of the virus that helps build immunity against the infection. Generally, hepatitis A vaccine is administered to a child of 1 to 2 years of age. The vaccine should be given to adults who are at a greater risk of developing hepatitis A and also those with chronic liver disease. The vaccine against hepatitis A is given in two shots, the second shot after 6 to 12 months of the first shot. A person who has suffered from hepatitis A infection becomes immune to hepatitis A in future; however, the individual is not immune to other types of hepatitis. A person having an active hepatitis A should never hide from his doctor or dentist about his condition.