Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect your liver’s ability to function.
Hepatitis A is closely associated with poor personal hygiene, unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation practices.
Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A infection does not cause chronic liver disease and rarely is life threatening, however it can still cause debilitating symptoms and fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure), which is associated with a high mortality rate.
Practicing good hygiene such as washing your hands frequently is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against developing hepatitis A.
SYMPTOMS OF HEPATITIS A
The incubation period of hepatitis A normally lasts 14–28 days.
- Extreme fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially around the liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs
- Clay-colored stools
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Pain in the joints
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR HEPATITIS A
- Vaccination: There are three main types of hepatitis A vaccination:
- a vaccine for hepatitis A only
- a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and hepatitis B
- a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and typhoid fever
The choice of vaccine option depends on your symptoms, blood test results and your previous medical history and future plans. Talking to the doctor will help to understand, which option is the most suitable for you.
Extra doses of the vaccine are often recommended after 6-12 months if you need long-term protection.
DIAGNOSING HEPATITIS A
- Physical examination: The health care provider will perform a physical exam, which may show that your liver is enlarged and tender.
- Blood tests: Hepatitis A virus (HAV) test is a blood test that looks for proteins (antibodies) made by the body in response to the virus that causes hepatitis A. These proteins will be present in your blood if you have a hepatitis A infection now or have had one in the past.IgM anti-HAV are antibodies mean that a recent infection with hepatitis A virus. Often IgM anti-HAV antibodies are present in the blood as early as 2 weeks after the initial HAV infection. These antibodies will then tend to disappear from the blood after 3 to 12 months.A presence of IgG anti-HAV antibodies indicates that you have had a hepatitis A viral infection. About 8 to 12 weeks after the initial hepatitis A infection, IgG anti-HAV antibodies appear and will remain in your blood for the rest of your life, thus making you immune to HAV.