Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a highly infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus that can cause mild to severe illness.  Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A infection does not cause chronic liver disease and is rarely fatal, but it can cause debilitating symptoms and fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure), which is associated with high mortality.

Globally, there are an estimated 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A every year.

Transmission

  • The hepatitis A virus is transmitted primarily by the faecal-oral route (ingestion of food or water that has been contaminated with the faeces of an infected person)
    • When someone with the virus handles the food you eat without first carefully washing his or her hands after using the toilet
    • Drinking contaminated water
    • Eating raw shellfish from water polluted with sewage
  • The virus can also be transmitted through close (not casual) physical contact with an infectious person even if that person has no signs or symptoms.
  • Having sex with someone who has the virus.

Signs and Symptoms

The incubation period of hepatitis A is usually 14–28 days.

When symptoms do appear they are similar to those of Hepatitis A and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the area of your liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Muscle pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Symptoms of hepatitis A usually can last from less than two months to as long as six months. Not everyone with hepatitis A develops signs or symptoms.

Prevention

Hepatitis A vaccine is the most effective way in preventing Hepatitis A infection.

In addition to vaccination, there are other simple ways to help stop the spread of Hepatitis A:

  • Have adequate supplies of safe drinking water
  • Have proper disposal of sewage within communities
  • Personal hygiene practices such as regular hand washing with safe water.

Vaccines available to prevent Hepatitis A Infection:

Hepatitis A Vaccines

Resources for this article:
http://www.mayoclinic.com
http://www.who.int