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Hepatitis A

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Hepatitis is defined as the inflammation of the liver. The causes of hepatitis are numerous. Viral hepatitis is one of the important causes of liver damage. The most important types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, B and C. In this article, hepatitis A will be discussed in details.
 
Hepatitis A, also called infectious hepatitis, is the infection with hepatitis A virus involving the liver. It is responsible for about 30% of hepatitis cases in the United States. Although it is highly contagious, permanent liver damage does not occur in hepatitis A. 

Mode of infection with hepatitis A virus:
Infection can occur through eating or drinking contaminated foods or drinks respectively. This situation usually occurs in daycare centers when caregivers do not wash their hands after changing a diaper and then prepare or serve food. 
This mode of infection is known as fecal-oral infection.


Ways of transmission of hepatitis A virus:
  • Drinking contaminated water.
  • Eating food that is prepared by an infected food handler who does not wash his/her hand after using the toilet.
  • Eating shellfish, such as clams and oysters, that can be contaminated if harvested from waters contaminated with hepatitis A virus.
  • Although rare, sexual transmission can occur in some cases.
There is a period of time between when an individual gets infected and when the symptoms appear. This is known as the incubation period. In case of hepatitis A, this period of time varies from 2 - 6 weeks. 
What are the symptoms of hepatitis A ?
In children, it can cause no symptoms. The disease's severity correlates with age. Symptoms of hepatitis A are:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, specifically in the right of the abdomen under the lower ribs.
- Loss of weight and weakness.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Fever.
- Dark urine.
- Yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

If you had been exposed to hepatitis A virus, like if you ate at a restaurant who reported a hepatitis A outbreak or if you live with a family member who is diagnosed with hepatitis A, you can prevent the disease from happening by taking the immunoglobulin therapy.
Immunoglobulin given within 2 weeks after exposure prevents the illness in 80 - 90 % of the cases.

What is the treatment of hepatitis A ?
Hepatitis A is a self-resolving disease which means that the body can heal on its own without using any medications.
But there are important steps that a patient must follow, which are:
- Hand washing thoroughly after using the toilet.
- The patient must not prepare or serve food as he/she may spread his/her infection to others.
- Eating a well balanced diet.
- Avoiding alcohol.
- Rest.

What are the measures that should be taken to prevent hepatitis A ?


First of all, a good hygiene is the basis of prevention. Washing your hands after using the toilet and before handling food can be a very effective tool in prevention of hepatitis A.
Active vaccination for hepatitis A is available and effective in prevention. Immunoglobulin can prevent the disease if given within 2 weeks from exposure. 

What can kill hepatitis A virus ?
- Iodine.
- Chlorine.
- Heating to 185 degrees Celsius for 60 seconds. 

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