What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a human virus found in the stool/feces of a person with Hepatitis A. It is usually spread from person to person by putting something in their mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with Hepatitis A. This generally occurs through contaminated food and water usually from not washing your hands after going to the bathroom.
You can be at risk of getting Hepatitis A if you:
- Engage in oral-anal sex
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Are an injection drug user
- Are a non-injection drug user (i.e. snorting cocaine and other drugs)
- Eat food or water (or ice) contaminated with human feces that is also contaminated with Hepatitis A
- Eat fruits, vegetables, seafood or raw food contaminated during handling
- Have household contacts of infected persons
- Are traveling to countries where Hepatitis A is common
How will I know if I have Hepatitis A?
The best way to know is to be tested for it. It is a simple blood test that any doctor/physician can perform. Most adults who become infected will show signs and symptoms. Unfortunately, when children become infected they don't always show signs and symptoms for the first two weeks. The symptoms that may occur when infected with Hepatitis A are:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Dark colored urine
- Light colored feces/stool
- Flu like symptoms:
What kind of long-term effects will Hepatitis A give me?
There are no long term (chronic) effects or infection. Once you have had Hepatitis A you cannot get it again. Hepatitis A is considered short term (acute) infection. If someone shows symptoms of it they experience severe flu like symptoms for a few weeks. Most people recover from Hepatitis A within 1-2 months but about 15% of people infected will have prolonged or relapsing symptoms over a 6-9 month period. While a person is infected they are contagious but once they have recovered they are no longer contagious to others.
What is the treatment for Hepatitis A?
There is no specific treatment for Hepatitis A. Your physician will put you on medications to help you get through the flu like symptoms and put you on bed rest until recovered.
How can I prevent myself from getting Hepatitis A?
- Hepatitis A vaccine is the best protection
- Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing and eating food
- Short-term protection against Hepatitis A is available from immune globulin. It can be given before and within 2 weeks after coming in contact with Hepatitis A
Who should get the vaccine for Hepatitis A?
- Travelers to areas with increased rates of Hepatitis A
- Persons with chronic liver disease
- Persons with Hepatitis B and/or Hepatitis C
- Men who have sex with men
- Injection drug users
- Non-injection drug users (i.e. snorting cocaine or other drugs)
- Persons with clotting-factor disorders