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Hepatitis A Infection

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Lab Technician holding a Hepatitis A Test tube

Symptoms, Testing & Treatment for Hepatitis A

By Dr. Edmiston

Hepatitis A is a type of virus that causes liver disease. It is transmitted through food and water in most cases and can lead to mild or severe illness. Most people who get hepatitis A recover fully and develop lifelong immunity because of the infection. For some people, however, hepatitis A can lead to severe liver disease and even death.

Hepatitis A Transmission

Most people get hepatitis A from eating food or drinking water that contain the virus. This type of transmission is more common in places with unsafe food and water or inadequate sanitation. It is possible for hepatitis A to be transmitted from one person to another through close contact, injection drug use, and sex.

Hepatitis A Symptoms

Symptoms of hepatitis A arise 14 to 28 days after infection. They can include; 

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • dark urine.

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Adults are more likely to experience the symptoms of hepatitis A than children. Young children (particularly those under 6 years of age) do not often have noticeable symptoms of hepatitis A infection. About 10% of people who contract hepatitis A will experience recurrent or long-term symptoms. A much smaller percentage will experience liver failure.

Hepatitis A Diagnosis

Hepatitis A cannot be distinguished from more serious viruses (like hepatitis B or C) without blood testing. Even during large outbreaks, testing is required to determine if symptoms are caused by hepatitis A or some other virus.

Hepatitis A Treatment

Hepatitis A is usually treated symptomatically, meaning that people are made comfortable while the disease resolves on its own. In severe cases, interferon, a medication that boosts immune function, may be used to reduce inflammation and protect the liver while the body fights off the infection.



In general, the best way to treat hepatitis A is to avoid it in the first place. This means washing or cooking food before eating it, drinking only safe water, practicing good hygiene (e.g. washing hands after using the toilet and before handling food), and implementing proper sanitation procedures (e.g. sewage treatment).

For people at high risk of severe hepatitis A infection (those travelling to an area where the virus is common, recreational drug users, people with chronic liver disease, and men who have sex with men) vaccination is recommended. The vaccine is given as a 2-dose series and is not part of routine childhood vaccination.

Conclusion

To avoid being infected practice safe sex which includes using condoms and not engaging in sex with an infected person. If you have any of these symptoms you should be tested ASAP (as soon as possible) and sexual partners be contacted. You can avoid complications if your infection has been detected & treated.

About the Author

He is a Medical Doctor with a B.S. in Biology. His passions are making health science readable and enjoyable for the general public.

Resources

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs328/en/


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Disclaimer: Articles not intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure or Prevent Diseases.

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