Hepatitis A is…
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that causes abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, diarrhea and yellow skin. Hepatitis A usually doesn't cause chronic illness or chronic complications.
You can get hepatitis A from…
Hepatitis A comes from small amounts of infected fecal matter that is ingested, usually from contaminated food or drink. Foods can become contaminated with hepatitis A anytime from the growing, harvesting, processing, handling, or after cooking.
It can also be contracted by touching something that has the virus on it, and then touching food or putting your hands in your mouth. Hepatitis A may also be spread by close personal contact with an infected person through sex, caring for an infected patient, or changing a baby's diaper.
Hepatitis A contamination is more common in areas where sanitation is minimal and people have poor personal hygiene. In the U.S., Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors bodies of water for fecal contamination, and chlorine is used to kill any hepatitis A virus that enters the water supply.
Is hepatitis A contagious?
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral infection that typically spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from food, drinks, or objects contaminated by undetected amounts of feces from an infected person.
Hepatitis A is most contagious shortly after infection, before symptoms appear. Healthy adults are no longer contagious 2 weeks after the illness begins. Children and people with compromised immune systems may be contagious for as long as 6 months.
What are early symptoms of hepatitis A?
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling unwell (malaise)
- Fever over 100.4°F (38°C)
- Abdominal pain under the ribs on the right side
Several days later, symptoms of hepatitis A may include:
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stool
- Yellowing skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Itchy skin
Can hepatitis A go away on its own?
If you get the hepatitis A virus the body will clear the infection on its own, but it may take several months to feel better.
To help with recovery, get adequate rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat a healthy diet, and avoid alcohol and acetaminophen (Tylenol) which can harm the liver.
In more severe cases, hospitalization may be required.
There is a vaccination against hepatitis A.
There is a hepatitis A vaccine available and it is highly effective in preventing hepatitis A infection. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends hepatitis A vaccination for the following people:
- All children at 1 year of age
- Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
- Family and caregivers of people from countries where hepatitis A is common
- Men who have sex with other men
- Recreational drug users, whether injected or not
- Homeless people or those with unstable housing
- Patients with chronic or long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C
- People with clotting-factor disorders
- People in direct contact with others who have hepatitis A
- Anyone who wants to obtain immunity from hepatitis A
How is hepatitis A treated?
It can take several months to recover from hepatitis A virus infection. If you have been recently exposed (within 2 weeks) to hepatitis A and are unvaccinated, it is recommended you receive the hepatitis A vaccine and/or a shot of immune globulin to prevent serious illness.
Once symptoms occur, home treatment is recommended. Get adequate rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat a healthy diet, and avoid alcohol and acetaminophen (Tylenol) which can harm the liver.
In serious cases hospitalization may be needed.
How can hepatitis A be prevented?
The hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to prevent contracting the hepatitis A virus. Other ways to help prevent getting hepatitis A infection include:
- Wash hands frequently and thorough, especially after using the bathroom, before preparing or eating food, after touching garbage, or changing diapers.
- Follow food safety guidelines:
- Wash produce before eating
- Keep the refrigerator colder than 40°F (4.4°C) and the freezer below 0°F (-17.8°C)
- Cook meat and seafood thoroughly
- Cook eggs yolks until firm
- Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after using them with raw foods
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy products
What is the difference between hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C?
All forms of hepatitis affect the liver and cause similar symptoms. However, they are transmitted differently and affect the liver differently.
Hepatitis A infection usually only lasts a few months and does not become chronic, while both hepatitis B and C can result in chronic disease and liver problems.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but there are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
What is the most common form of hepatitis?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the most common form of hepatitis is hepatitis C, with about 44,300 new infections each year and an estimated 2.4 million people living with the disease.
That is followed by hepatitis B, with about 22,100 new infections each year and an estimated 862,000 people living with the illness.
Hepatitis A is the least common form of hepatitis with about 6,700 new infections each year.
Images provided by:
UpToDate.com. Patient education: Hepatitis A (The Basics)
CDC. Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Hepatitis A
American Academy of Family Physicians. Hepatitis A
CDC. What is Viral Hepatitis?
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