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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- Heating to 185 degrees Celsius for 60 seconds.