What is Hepatitis A ?
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is one of the several types of hepatitis, i.e. hepatitis b, hepatitis c, hepatitis d, hepatitis d, and e. It is a highly contagious viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver and is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is primarily spread through contaminated food or water and can also be spread through close personal contact with an infected individual. Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, jaundice, and dark urine. The illness typically resolves on its own, and in most cases people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage. But in some cases can be severe or even fatal. A vaccine is available to prevent infection. Practicing good hygiene, eating healthy food, and adequate exercise can prevent and help cure the infection.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A
Some cases of hepatitis a do not show evident symptoms, but if it does, symptoms may include;
- Fatigue and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Dark urine and light-clay-colored stools
- Itchy skin
- Fever and chills
- Joint pain and muscle aches
- Rash or hives.
Hepatitis a shows its symptoms within a week or two once you get infected. These symptoms may be mild and go away on their own. But sometimes, the symptoms may be severe and can last for months and years. You may recover hepatitis by eating healthy foods, adopting good hygiene, and taking adequate exercise.
Causes of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), which is primarily spread through contaminated food or water or through close contact with an infected person, such as through fecal-oral transmission. It can spread even by entering a tiny particle of the stool of an infected person into the mouth of an uninfected person. This can occur through poor hygiene practices, such as not washing hands properly after using the bathroom or not properly washing fruits and vegetables before eating them. Risk factors for hepatitis A include living in or traveling to areas with poor sanitation, close contact with infected individuals, and certain sexual behaviors. Some specific cause behind the spread of infection are;
- Contaminated food or water: Hepatitis A can spread through consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with fecal matter containing the virus.
- Close contact with infected individuals: The virus can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person, such as through sharing utensils or personal items.
- Sexual contact: Hepatitis A can be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person.
- Poor sanitation and hygiene: People living in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
- Travel to endemic areas: Travelers to areas where hepatitis A is common may be at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
- Injection drug use: Individuals who use injection drugs may be at a higher risk of contracting the virus through sharing needles or other equipment.
- Occupational exposure: Healthcare workers or other individuals with occupational exposure to infected patients may be at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
Risk Factors of Hepatitis A
You are at high risk if you;
- Travel to or living in areas with high rates of hepatitis A
- have close contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- are using recreational drugs, especially injected drugs
- are being a man who has sex with other men
- are having a job that involves close contact with the public, such as a food service worker
- are having a clotting factor disorder, such as hemophilia
- are having chronic liver disease
- are homeless or living in a crowded or unsanitary living condition
Complications of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis a can recover on its own, but in some case it may prolong, and cause further medical complications if let untreated. It may lead to some serious complications including;
- Acute liver failure: In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause the liver to stop functioning properly, leading to acute liver failure. Symptoms include jaundice, nausea, vomiting, and confusion.
- Chronic hepatitis: In rare cases, some individuals may develop chronic hepatitis A, which can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- Reye’s syndrome: Children and teenagers who contract hepatitis A and take aspirin may develop Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can lead to brain and liver damage.
- Relapsing hepatitis: Some individuals may experience relapsing hepatitis A, where symptoms return after an initial recovery period.
- Autoimmune hepatitis: In rare cases, hepatitis A can trigger an autoimmune response where the body’s immune system attacks the liver.
- Coagulopathy: Hepatitis A can cause a deficiency in clotting factors, leading to a condition known as coagulopathy, where the blood is unable to clot properly.
- Guillain-Barré syndrome: A rare complication of hepatitis A, Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the nerves, causing weakness, tingling, and even paralysis.
Diagnosis of Hepatitis A
Infection of Hepatitis A can be diagnosed by afore-mentioned signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider can easily diagnose and detect the infection by a short clinical examination, but in order to achieve accurate diagnostic results, lab tests of the blood prove to be helpful. By means of blood tests, we can detect the presence of antibodies to the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The test can also be used to confirm immunity to the virus. In some cases, a liver function test may also be ordered to check for any damage to the liver. A stool test may also be done to detect the presence of HAV in the feces. A physical examination may also be performed to look for signs of liver inflammation or infection.
Preventions of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection, that can spread from one individual to another with a minor carelessness. Therefore, precautions are as necessary as the treatment is. In order to prevent the spread of infection, the following measures and lifestyle should be carried out;
Get Vaccinated: The Hepatitis A vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It is given as a series of two injections, typically given 6 to 12 months apart. The vaccine is recommended for people who are at an increased risk of contracting the virus, such as people who travel to countries where the virus is common, people with certain medical conditions, and people who live in areas where outbreaks of Hepatitis A have occurred. It is also recommended for people who have close contact with someone who has the virus. The vaccine is generally well-tolerated, with few side effects reported. The Center for Disease Controle and Prevention recommended vaccine for HAV for :
- All children at age 1 year, or older children who didn’t receive the childhood vaccine
- Anyone age 1 year or older who is homeless
- Infants ages 6 to 11 months traveling to parts of the world where hepatitis A is common
- Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common
- People in direct contact with others who have hepatitis A
- Laboratory workers who may come into contact with hepatitis A
- Men who have sex with men
- People who work or travel in parts of the world where hepatitis A is common
- People who use any type of recreational drugs, not just injected ones
- People with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C
- Anyone wishing to obtain protection (immunity)
Avoid Sexual Activities: You must avoid all sexual activities, if you have hepatitis A. Many kinds of sexual activity can spread the infection to your partner. Even condoms don’t offer adequate protection.
Practice Good Hygiene: As hepatitis A is highly contagious and can easily pass from an infected to the uninfected individuals. Poor hygiene can increase the risk of its spread. To maintain good hygiene the infected one should not prepare food for the uninfected individuals, because the infection can easily pass from the contaminated hands to the food and then to the mouth of uninfected persons.
The virus is present in the stool of the infected person, therefore they should wash their hand cleanly, and scrub them at least for 20 seconds, and dry with a disposable towel.
Treatment of Hepatitis A
So far the doctors have not discovered any specific treatment or anti-HAV drugs to eradicate its infection. In most case hepatitis A infection heals its own without any treatment. The body can cover even a prolonged case with in a period of six months without causing any damage to the liver. So the main goal of the treatment are to manage the symptoms of the infection.
Treatment for hepatitis A may include:
- Rest: It is important to rest and avoid strenuous activities to allow the liver to heal.
- Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen can be used to manage pain and fever. If a person has a high fever or severe abdominal pain, they may need to be hospitalized and given IV fluids.
- Diet: A healthy diet is important to support the liver while it is healing. This may include foods that are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Avoiding alcohol: Drinking alcohol can put added stress on the liver and should be avoided during treatment.
- Vaccination: Vaccination is the best way to prevent the infection. Vaccines are available for people at risk of infection and for people who have already been infected.
It is important for people with hepatitis A to seek medical treatment as soon as possible to prevent complications.