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Hepatitis A – Information you need to know

Food poisoning occurs when we eat food that has been contaminated - usually by bacteria or viruses.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the virus hepatitis A. You get infected with the virus when you are unhygienic and eventually come in contact with the food or water of an infected person. The disease is caused by exposure to contaminated water or food, improper hygiene and poor personal hygiene.

Unlike in the case of hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A infection does not lead to chronic liver disease and is rarely fatal. However, it can lead to debilitating symptoms and exacerbation of hepatitis, which is fatal.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Having this infection means that your liver has become inflamed due to the virus. It is not necessary that you always get the usual symptoms, but when you have symptoms you can notice the following things:

  • Jaundice (yellow colour of eyes and skin, dark colour of urine)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Reduction in appetite.
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea

Children with hepatitis A generally have few symptoms.

You can spread the hepatitis A virus during the first week of infection or even before you notice any of the above symptoms.

How do you spread the virus?

You can get diseases from drinking water or food that may have been contaminated with the feces of someone who is infected with the virus.

You can also get infected by:

  • Consuming fruits, vegetables, or other food products that may have been contaminated when handling.
  • Eating shellfish from virus-infected water.
  • Consuming ice made from contaminated water.

Who is at higher risk?

People can put themselves at risk by:

  • Living with or having sex with an infected person.
  • Traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common.
  • Having a homosexual relationship.
  • Giving yourself a drug injection

How can you diagnose it?

Doctors ask for a blood test, which will help them in its diagnosis.

Does Hepatitis A Have Long-Term Effects?

Generally, the virus does not cause any long-term effects or complications. However, 10% to 15% of people with hepatitis A have symptoms that they will be infected with it for a long time. Some symptoms return after 6 to 9 months. In some cases, some people suffer from liver failure and may need a transplant.

What is the treatment?

There is no treatment that can cure this disease. Your doctor will conduct tests and check your liver function to make sure your body is recovering.

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis A?

Yes. Vaccination is highly recommended for people who:

  • have traveled to countries with hepatitis A infection,
  • are homosexual.
  • suffer from severe blood clots.
  • have injected illicit drugs.
  • have long-term liver disease.

The vaccine is prescribed in dosage.

Can we prevent hepatitis A?

The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. If you encounter someone with hepatitis A, you should take a specific drug known as an immune globulin within 2 weeks.

Good hygiene is extremely important. Remember to wash your hands with Dettol Liquid Handwash once you use the toilet. It is recommended to use it before you handle food and after changing diapers.

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