Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by Hepatitis A Virus (HAV). It primarily spreads from faeces of an infected person to healthy, unvaccinated individuals. This disease is caused by unsafe food, contaminated water, poor sanitation, poor personal and oral hygiene. Hepatitis A does not cause as serious problems as Hepatitis B and C but sometimes it can cause death due to chronic liver failure. Most of the times, the virus spreads through contaminated food along with unhygienic sexual contact.

How does Hepatitis A spread?

  1.  Contaminated food and water – typically from the faeces of infected person to healthy, unvaccinated persons.
  2. Through male to male sex, injection of drugs with same contaminated needles and oral-anal sex.

Casual / normal contact does NOT spread this virus.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

The incubation period of Hepatitis A Virus is 14 to 28 days. It is the time that virus takes to infect a fully healthy body. Symptoms can be mild to severe including:

  1. Fever
  2. Malaise
  3. Loss of Appetite
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Nausea
  6. Abdimonal Discomfort
  7. Dark Coloured Urine & Jaundice.

The infected person may not experience all of these symptoms but typically they will have multiple symptoms from those mentioned above.

Who is at risk for Hepatitis A?

  1. People living in poor sanitation.
  2. Lack of access to cleaner water.
  3. Living in a sexual relationship with an infected partner.
  4. Gay Men
  5. Drug Abusers sharing needles.

Diagnosis of Hepatitis A Virus

The symptoms of Hepatitis A are not quite distinguishable from other Hepatitis infections. HAV Specific Immunoglobulin G (IgM) antibodies in the blood must be detected to confirm the infection. Additional tests may include RT-PCR – Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction to detect the RNA of Hepatitis A Virus.

Treatment For Hepatitis A

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A similar to many viral infections. Recovery from infection may be slow and may take several months for the infected person. Most importantly, unnecessary medications should be avoided. Especially Acetaminophen or Paracetamol should be avoided (to prevent vomiting).

Hospitalization may not be needed unless there is a severe infection of liver. Therapy is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids that are lost from vomiting and diarrhea

Prevention of Hepatitis A

1. Proper Sanitation and access to clean drinking water.

2. Washing of hands with soap before meals and after visiting restroom.

3. Proper disposal of sewage.

4. Vaccination against Hepatitis A.

Resistance to Hepatitis A will be typically developed within a month after administration of the vaccine.