Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an acute and contagious infection of the liver which is caused by the hepatitis A. It is an RNA virus as its genetic material. Hepatitis A usually spread the fecal-oral route, generally transmitted person to person by hand to mouth contact with stool from an infected person or through ingested contaminated food or water. Millions of individuals worldwide are infected with hepatitis A each year. 

The Hepatitis A virus, unlike many other viruses survives for a long time at room temperature in food and on surfaces and objects. This virus has no affect by cold or by freezing, but becomes inactivate on heating foods at 185o F (85oC) for awhile. Proper water chlorination also terminates the hepatitis A virus.

Hepatitis A infection occurs worldwide, mostly in developing countries and in regions of poor hygiene like Africa, Asia (except Japan), parts of the Caribbean, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Middle East. While in the United States of America, it occurs rarely like in isolated cases, in outbreaks, and in widespread epidemics.

Due to the virus that can survive in the environment for a long time, people can also be infected by:

  • Consuming food that was contaminated even after cooking
  • Consuming raw or uncooked shellfish that was harvested from sewage-contaminated water
  • Consuming raw fruits and vegetables that were contaminated with the virus during growing, harvesting, processing, or handling
  • Drinking contaminated water or ice

Signs and symptoms:

The risk of infection with the HAV (hepatitis A Virus) is high in children as it is usually contracted in early childhood.  However HAV causes no clinical signs and symptoms in more than 90% of infected children and because of the infection conferring a lifelong immunity, is of no special significance to those who ever infected by it early in life. However, in adults symptoms that develop over several days include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the abdominal
  • Appetite Loss

 Diagnosis

hepatitis A is diagnosed by a blood test called IgM anti-HAV.

Who is at risk for hepatitis A?

Anyone who is virgin to the infection is prone to be infected with hepatitis A virus, but some people are at increased risk:

  • Persons who share a household or have sexual contact with an infected person
  • Children and staff in child-care centers and especially centers where children are in diapers and where someone is or has been infected
  • Tourists to countries where hepatitis A is common and where proper sewage disposal and clean water, food, and sanitation are not available
  • Residents and staff of institutions for developmentally disabled persons where someone has hepatitis A
  • Men who have sexual relations with men

Prevention:

1. Hepatitis A vaccines provide long-term protection. The vaccine is licensed for use in persons 2 years of age and older. It must be given before exposure to the hepatitis A virus. Two shots are needed for long-term protection.

Hepatitis A vaccine is strongly recommended for:

  • Persons who travel to or work in areas where hepatitis A is common. The first dose should be given at least 4 weeks before travel.
  • Men who have sexual relations with men

2. To prevent person to person spread, good personal hygiene and a proper sanitation system is important. Always wash hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet and also after changing a diaper and before eating or preparing food.

Hepatitis A
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