What is Hepatitis A?

hepatitis A

Hepatitis A may be a viral liver disease which will cause delicate to severe health problem. The hepatitis a virus (HAV) is transmitted through consumption of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infectious person.

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is present in the faeces of infected persons and is most often transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Certain sex practices can also spread HAV.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect your liver’s ability to function.

You’re most likely to contract hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or from close contact with someone who’s infected. Mild cases of hepatitis A don’t require treatment, and most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

If you have this infection, you have inflammation in your liver that’s caused by a virus. You don’t always get symptoms, but when you do, you might have:

  • Jaundice (yellow eyes and skin, dark urine)
  • Pain in your belly
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

Children often have the disease with few symptoms.

You can spread the hepatitis A virus about 2 weeks before your symptoms appear and during the first week they show up, or even if you don’t have any.

How could I get hepatitis A?

You could get hepatitis A through contact with an infected person’s stool. This contact could occur by

  • eating food made by an infected person who didn’t wash his or her hands after using the bathroom
  • drinking untreated water or eating food washed in untreated water
  • placing a finger or object in your mouth that came into contact with an infected person’s stool
  • having close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill
  • You cannot get hepatitis A from
  • being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person
  • sitting next to an infected person
  • hugging an infected person

A baby cannot get hepatitis A from breast milk.

Vaccination against hepatitis A

Vaccination against hepatitis A isn’t routinely offered in the UK because the risk of infection is low for most people.
It’s only recommended for people at an increased risk, including:

  • close contacts of someone with hepatitis A
  • people planning to travel to or live in parts of the world where hepatitis A is widespread, particularly if levels of sanitation and food hygiene are expected to be poor
  • people with any type of long-term (chronic) liver disease
  • men who have sex with other men
  • people who inject illegal drugs
  • people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job – this includes sewage workers, staff of institutions where levels of personal hygiene may be poor (such as a homeless shelter) and people working with monkeys, apes and gorillas

The hepatitis A vaccine is usually available for free on the NHS for anyone who needs it.

Treatments for hepatitis A

No specific treatment exists for hepatitis A. Your body will clear the hepatitis A virus on its own. In most cases of hepatitis A, the liver heals within six months with no lasting damage.

Hepatitis A treatment usually focuses on coping with your signs and symptoms. You may need to:

  • Rest. Many people with hepatitis A infection feel tired and sick and have less energy.
  • Cope with nausea. Nausea can make it difficult to eat. Try snacking throughout the day rather than eating full meals. To get enough calories, eat more high-calorie foods. For instance, drink fruit juice or milk rather than water.
  • Rest your liver. Your liver may have difficulty processing medications and alcohol. Review your medications, including over-the-counter drugs, with your doctor. Don’t drink alcohol while infected with hepatitis.

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