What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the virus hepatitis A. You are affected by the virus when you are unvaccinated and end up coming in contact with food or water that is contaminated with feces of an infected person. The disease is closely related to exposure to unsafe water or food, improper sanitation 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 fulminant hepatitis, which is fatal.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?
Having this infection means that you have inflammation in your liver that is caused by the virus. It is not necessary that you always get the symptoms, but when you do, you might notice the following:
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes, dark urine)
- Belly pain
- Loss of appetite
Children with Hepatitis A generally show fewer symptoms.
You can end up spreading the hepatitis A virus during the first week of infection or even before you show signs of any of the aforesaid symptoms.
How do you spread the virus?
You can get the disease from drinking water or food that's 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 got contaminated while handling
- Eating raw shellfish harvested from the virus-infected water
- Eat ice made of contaminated water
Who is at high risk?
People can expose themselves to the risk by:
- Living or have sex with someone who is infected
- Visiting countries where hepatitis A is common
- Having a homosexual relationship
- Injecting yourself with drugs
How can you diagnose it?
Doctors prescribe blood tests which help them in diagnosing it.
Does hepatitis A have any long-term effects?
Generally, the virus does not cause any long-term effects or complications. However, 10% to 15% people suffering from hepatitis A will have symptoms that will stay with them for a long time. Some symptoms end up coming back after 6-to 9- months. In certain cases, some people might suffer from liver failure and need a transplant.
What is the treatment?
There are no treatments that can cure the disease. Your doctor will conduct tests and check your liver function, making sure your body is healing.
Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis A?
Yes. The vaccination is highly recommended for people who:
- Visit countries with increased hepatitis A infection
- Are homosexuals
- Suffer from severe blood clotting
- Inject illegal drugs
- Suffer from long-term liver disease.
The vaccine is administered in doses.
Can we prevent Hepatitis A?
The best way to defend yourself is by getting vaccinated. If you encounter someone with hepatitis A, you should get hold of a specific medication known as immune globulin within 2 weeks.
Good hygiene is extremely crucial. Remember to wash your hands with Dettol Liquid Handwash once you use the washroom. This is recommended before you handle food and after replacing a diaper.