Looking After Yourself When You Have Hepatitis A
AlcoholSome people with acute hepatitis develop an aversion to alcohol in the acute phase. Previously people with this condition were told to avoid alcohol for six months following the illness. This advice is no longer thought necessary.
SmokingSmoking is dangerous to everyones health. Smoking can increase the severity of liver damage. People with liver disease are more vulnerable to infection and to poor health overall, so smoking or exposure to passive smoking is not advisable.
DietIf you have a short-term hepatitis infection, for example hepatitis A, you should try to eat a normal diet. However, some people may need extra nutrition to prevent unplanned weight loss, and may benefit from a high-energy and high-protein diet. A dietitian can advise on this.
If you develop nausea and vomiting, our coping with eating difficulties may help. Read more here.
Hepatitis C: How Does It Spread
It spreads through infected blood. In the U.S., sharing needles or other items used to inject drugs is the most common cause of infection. Getting a tattoo or body piercing with an infected needle is another means of exposure. A mother may pass the virus to their child at birth. In rare cases, unprotected sex spreads hepatitis C, but the risk appears small. Having multiple sex partners, HIV, or rough sex seems to raise risk for spreading hepatitis C.
Who Is More Likely To Get Hepatitis A
People more likely to get hepatitis A are those who
- travel to developing countries
- have sex with an infected person
- are men who have sex with men
- use illegal drugs, including drugs that are not injected
- experience unstable housing or homelessness
- live with or care for someone who has hepatitis A
- live with or care for a child recently adopted from a country where hepatitis A is common
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Groups At High Risk Of Hep B Transmission
Hep B can only be passed on through blood-to-blood contact, unprotected sex or during birth so you might be at risk of having hep B if you:
- have moved to Australia from a country where hep C is widespread
- were born to a mother who was hep B positive during her pregnancy
- live or have lived with someone with hep B
- have or have had a sexual partner who has hep B
- have ever injected drugs or steroids
- are in prison or have ever been in prison
- have had blood transfusions, blood products or organ transplant in Australia before February 1990
- are of Aboriginal ancestry
- have had unsterile cosmetic or medical procedures.
- have had unsterile tattooing or piercing
- have ever taken part in unsterile traditional practices such as traditional tattooing, circumcision, initiation rituals involving blood, and scarification
- do not meet the above profiles but have abnormal liver function tests or experience hep B symptoms
Hepatitis A In Australia
In recent years, hepatitis A notifications and hospitalisations have been low and trending down.1An increasing proportion of cases relate to travel to countries where hepatitis A is endemic.12-14
Hepatitis A in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
The hepatitis A vaccination program was initially established in north Queensland in 1999 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 18 months.15 In 2005, it expanded to include all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 2 years in:
- the Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
Before the vaccination program, rates of hepatitis A in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were very high. Factors associated with high rates were poor living conditions, overcrowding and poor sanitation.16 The hepatitis A vaccination program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in endemic areas substantially reduced hospitalisations and notifications for this population.17
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children > 2 years of age in states and territories targeted by the hepatitis A vaccination program have received hep A vaccine. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children remain at greater risk than non-Indigenous children of acquiring hepatitis A.17
History of hepatitis A in Australia
More recently, Hepatitis A outbreaks have been associated with a common food source.17,21,22
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When Will Symptoms Appear After You Have Been Exposed To Hav
It generally takes about 4 weeks for symptoms to appear, but they can start at 2 weeks or they can start up to 8 weeks after you have been exposed. You probably wont get every symptom immediately, but they tend to emerge over days.
Also, you can have no symptoms and have the virus and be contagious. Children especially may be free of symptoms despite being infected.
How Can You Prevent Hepatitis A
There is a vaccine, made from an inactivateddeadvirus to prevent hepatitis A. If you are not sure you have had the vaccine, you can ask your doctor to test you to see if you have been vaccinated.
You can also practice good hand washing hygiene. Make sure you use soap and warm water to wash your hands for at least 15 to 30 seconds after you use the toilet, change diapers, and before and after touching food.
If you are traveling in another country, especially a developing country, drink only bottled water and use only bottled water to brush your teeth, wash your produce, and freeze for ice cubes.
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How Can Hepatitis A Be Prevented
To prevent person-to-person spread, careful hand washing after using the bathroom, changing diapers and before preparing or eating food, is the single most important means of prevention.
Foodborne hepatitis A outbreaks are relatively uncommon in the United States however, when they occur, intensive public health efforts are required for their control. To prevent the spread of hepatitis A from an infected food worker to co-workers and/or restaurant patrons, food workers should never touch ready-to-eat foods with bare hands, and should carefully wash their hands after using the bathroom, even if the food worker does not feel sick. Food workers should never work while they are sick with stomach illnesses.
Immune globulin shots are effective in preventing the spread of hepatitis A if given within 14 days of exposure. Immune globulin may be recommended for co-workers of infected food workers. Under certain circumstances, particularly when recommended food safety procedures are not followed by food workers, public health officials may recommend that restaurant patrons receive immune globulin.
For long-term protection, hepatitis A vaccine is the best method of prevention.
How Is Hepatitis Diagnosed
Chronic hepatitis can quietly attack the liver for years without causing any symptoms. Unless the infection is diagnosed, monitored, and treated, many of these people will eventually have serious liver damage. Fortunately, blood tests can determine whether you have viral hepatitis, and if so, which kind.
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How Is Hepatitis A Transmitted
HAV is highly contagious. It is spread primarily when a person ingests the virus from food, drinks, or objects that have been contaminated by small amounts of stool from an infected person sex with an infected person, particularly if it involves anal-oral contact and through injection drug use. In crowded, unsanitary conditions, HAV can be spread quickly and cause outbreaks by exposure to contaminated water or food .
Treatment: Chronic Hepatitis B
The goal of treating chronic hepatitis B is to control the virus and keep it from damaging the liver. This begins with regular monitoring for signs of liver disease. Antiviral medications may help, but not everyone can take them or needs to be on medication. Be sure to discuss the risks and benefits of antiviral therapy with your doctor.
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Overview Of The Disease
Hepatitis A is highly contagious, short term liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus.
The virus is found in the blood and poo of people when they are infected. If infected poo enters water supplies, then people who are drinking, swimming or washing in the water will get infected. If you eat fruit and vegetables washed in this water, you will catch the infection.
If people with hepatitis A cannot wash their hands after going to the toilet, they will transfer the virus to their hands and then to other objects or people that they touch. This can spread the infection.
Young children are at increased chance of catching hepatitis A during travel because they tend to put objects and their unclean hands in their mouth.
Hepatitis A occurs worldwide, mostly in countries where hygiene and sanitation is poor.
Why Getting Tested Is Important
A blood test is one of the only ways to confirm a diagnosis of hepatitis C. Additionally, hepatitis C often has no visible symptoms for many years.
Because of this, its important to be tested if you believe youve been exposed to the virus. Getting a timely diagnosis can help ensure you receive treatment before permanent liver damage occurs.
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Treatment For Hepatitis A
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. In most cases, your immune system will clear the infection and your liver will completely heal. Treatment aims to ease symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Options may include:
- Rest hepatitis A can make you tired and lacking in energy for day-to-day life, so rest when you can.
- Eat small meals more often nausea can affect your ability to eat and can contribute to tiredness, so eat small amounts of high-calorie foods often if nausea is a problem.
- Drink fluids.
- Protect your liver the liver processes medication and alcohol, so avoid alcohol and review any medication with your doctor.
Efficacy Of Hepatitis A Vaccines
Randomised controlled trials show that the vaccines have protective efficacy of nearly 100%.28,29 This is supported by the apparent eradication of hepatitis A from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in north Queensland and the Northern Territory since the vaccination program started in these regions.15,17,30
A single dose of Hepatitis A vaccine can confer protection for several years. There is evidence to suggest that a single dose of HAV hepatitis A vaccine can be 100% efficacious in preventing hepatitis A infection in seronegative young children in the study period from 6 weeks to 15 months post vaccination.31 Other studies have demonstrated effectiveness of a single dose in preventing hepatitis A infection up to 7 years after vaccination.25,32
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When To See A Healthcare Provider
If you develop any of the symptoms of chronic hepatitis, liver damage, or liver cancer, see your healthcare provider. It takes only a blood test to detect the presence of a hepatitis virus in your body .
A blood test also can determine which hepatitis virus you’re infected with, which will determine what your treatment should be .
How Is Hepatitis A Diagnosed And Managed
A blood test will confirm whether someone is infected with hepatitis A.
There is no medicine to treat hepatitis A. Your doctor may suggest rest, plenty of fluids and relief for any nausea or pain.
To protect your liver, you should not drink any alcohol while you have hepatitis. Your doctor will advise you what medicines you can take.
If you are diagnosed with hepatitis A, your doctor will need to enter details on the Notifiable Diseases database.
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Who Is Most Affected
Anyone who has not been vaccinated or previously infected can become infected with HAV. The most common risk factors among people with new HAV infections include: 1) drug use 2) having sex with an infected person 3) coming in direct contact with persons who have HAV infection 4) homelessness and 5) traveling to countries where HAV infection is more common.
For countries where HAV infection is common, the risk factors are poor sanitation and lack of clean, safe drinking water.
What Is Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and damage. Inflammation is swelling that occurs when tissues of the body become injured or infected. Inflammation can damage organs.
Viruses invade normal cells in your body. Many viruses cause infections that can be spread from person to person. The hepatitis A virus typically spreads through contact with food or water that has been contaminated by an infected persons stool.
Hepatitis A is an acute or short-term infection, which means people usually get better without treatment after a few weeks. In rare cases, hepatitis A can be severe and lead to liver failure and the need for an emergency liver transplant to survive. Hepatitis A does not lead to long-term complications, such as cirrhosis, because the infection only lasts a short time.
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How Is Hepatitis A Infection Prevented
- The hepatitis A vaccine offers excellent protection against HAV. The vaccine is safe and highly effective. Vaccination consists of 2 doses of vaccine spaced 6-12 months apart. Protection starts 1-2 weeks after the first dose of vaccine, and lasts for 20 years to life after 2 doses.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children should receive hepatitis A vaccine starting at 1 year of age .
- The CDC recommends hepatitis A vaccine for all persons traveling to countries where HAV is common . For infants that will be traveling internationally, an early dose of Hepatitis A vaccine can be given at age 6-11 months.
- People who have hepatitis A infection become immune to HAV for the rest of their lives once they recover. They cannot get hepatitis A twice.
- The blood test for immunity to hepatitis A is called the Hepatitis A Total Antibody test. People who have had hepatitis A and those who have received hepatitis A vaccine show positive antibodies to hepatitis A on this test for the rest of their life.
- Good personal hygiene and proper sanitation help prevent the spread of the HAV virus. Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing, serving, or eating food.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill the hepatitis A virus
After Exposure to HAV
What Is The Prognosis/outlook For Patients Who Have Hepatitis A
Most cases of hepatitis A are short-lived, but the disease doesnt always look the same for everyone. Some people have short illnesses that only last a few weeks and have mild symptoms. Others can be very ill for several months. Hepatitis A is rarely fatal, but death has happened due to liver failure brought on by HAV. This tends to happen more often in people who are over 50 years old or and in people who have another liver condition.
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How Is Hepatitis A Treated
There is no formal treatment for hepatitis A. Because its a short-term viral infection that goes away on its own, treatment is typically focused on reducing your symptoms.
After a few weeks of rest, the symptoms of hepatitis A usually begin to improve. To ease your symptoms, you should:
- avoid alcohol
Vaccination Against Hepatitis A
Vaccination against hepatitis A is not routinely offered in the UK because the risk of infection is low for most people.
It’s only recommended for people at an increased risk, including:
- close contacts of someone with hepatitis A
- people planning to travel to or live in parts of the world where hepatitis A is widespread, particularly if sanitation and food hygiene are expected to be poor
- people with any type of long-term liver disease
- men who have sex with other men
- people who inject illegal drugs
- people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job this includes sewage workers, people who work for organisations where personal hygiene may be poor, such as a homeless shelter, and people working with monkeys, apes and gorillas
The hepatitis A vaccine is usually available for free on the NHS for anyone who needs it.
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How You Can Get Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is most widespread in parts of the world where standards of sanitation and food hygiene are generally poor, such as parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, the Middle East, and Central and South America.
You can get the infection from:
- eating food prepared by someone with the infection who has not washed their hands properly or washed them in water contaminated with sewage
- drinking contaminated water, including ice cubes
- eating raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated water
- close contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- less commonly, having sex with someone with hepatitis A or injecting drugs using contaminated equipment
Someone with hepatitis A is most infectious from around 2 weeks before symptoms appear until about a week after symptoms first develop.
Causes Of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus. The virus can survive for several hours outside the body but persists on the hands and in food for even longer. It is resistant to heating and freezing.
The virus is spread when it enters the mouth, which can happen when hands, foods or other items are contaminated with the faeces of a person with hepatitis A. The disease can also be spread sexually by oral or anal contact.
A person with hepatitis A is infectious from 2 weeks before they show symptoms to one week after they become jaundiced .
If an infected person has no jaundice, they may pass on the virus until 2 weeks after they first have symptoms . Caution is advised beyond this period as the virus can be shed in stools for longer periods.
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