Sunday, August 14, 2011
Understanding Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is contracted from Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) which is found in the faeces of people with hepatitis A and is usually spread by close personal contact (including sex or sharing a household). It can also be spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated with HAV.
Vaccination is a must for all children at age 1 year, older children in cities and states where routine hepatitis A vaccination is recommended, household contacts of infected persons, sex partners of infected persons, persons travelling to countries where hepatitis A is common (all except Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand), men who have sex with men, injecting and non-injecting drug users, persons with chronic liver disease and any person who wants protection from HAV infection.
The doctor will perform a physical examination and may discover that you have an enlarged and tender liver.
Blood tests may show:
· Raised IgM and IgG antibodies to hepatitis A (IgM is usually positive before IgG)
· Elevated liver enzymes (liver function tests), especially transaminase enzyme levels.
The only way to know if you have already been infected is to have your blood tested for HAV infection. If you are concerned about your risk, talk to your healthcare provider about your need for blood testing. Viral hepatitis symptoms are similar no matter which type of hepatitis you have. If symptoms occur, you might experience any or all of the following: jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, dark urine, joint pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Very rarely, a recently acquired case of viral hepatitis can cause liver failure and death. Sometimes in these instances, a liver transplant (if a liver is available) can save a life.
The incubation period lasts between 15 to 50 days and for an average 28 days. There is no chronic infection. Once you have had HAV infection, you cannot get it again. About 15 out of 100 people infected with HAV will have prolonged illness or relapsing symptoms over a 6–9 month period. There is no treatment for hepatitis A other than supportive care.
For a recent exposure to someone with HAV or if travel is soon (leaving in less than
4 weeks) to an area of the world where hepatitis A is common, see your healthcare provider about your need for a dose of immune globulin (IG).
Always wash your hands with soap after using the toilet, changing a diaper, and before preparing and eating food.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Rest is recommended when the symptoms are most severe. People with acute hepatitis should avoid alcohol and any substances that are toxic to the liver, including acetaminophen (Tylenol). Fatty foods may cause vomiting, because substances from the liver are needed to digest fats. Fatty foods are best avoided during the acute phase.
The virus does not remain in the body after the infection has gone away. Over 85% of people with hepatitis A recover within 3 months. Nearly all patients get better within 6 months. There is a low risk of death, usually among the elderly and persons with chronic liver disease.
There are usually no complications. One in a thousand cases becomes fulminant hepatitis, which can be life threatening.