How Is Hepatitis A Spread
The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. The hepatitis A virus is spread when someone ingests the virus, usually through:
Eating contaminated food or drink
Contamination of food with the hepatitis A virus can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking. Contamination of food and water happens more often in countries where hepatitis A is common. Although uncommon, foodborne outbreaks have occurred in the United States from people eating contaminated fresh and frozen imported food products.
Hepatitis A can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine.
Hepatitis A And E Treatment
Hepatitis A and E usually resolve after a period of four to eight weeks. They do not cause chronic hepatitis, and in most cases, no special treatment is necessary unless your immune system is suppressed and/or you have had a solid organ transplantation. You are not confined to bed while you recuperate. Once the jaundice disappears, you can safely return to work. We will discuss with you whether you need special treatment or medication.
What Causes Hepatitis A And How Is It Contracted
People develop hepatitis A infection after contracting HAV. This virus is typically transmitted by ingesting food or liquid contaminated with fecal matter that contains the virus. Once transmitted, the virus spreads through the bloodstream to the liver, where it causes inflammation and swelling.
In addition to transmission from eating food or drinking water containing HAV, the virus can also be spread by close personal contact with an infected person. HAV is contagious, and a person who has hepatitis A can easily pass the disease to others living in the same household.
You can contract hepatitis A by:
- eating food prepared by someone with the hepatitis A virus
- eating food handled by preparers who dont follow strict hand-washing routines before touching food that you eat
- eating sewage-contaminated raw shellfish
- not using condoms when having sex with someone who has the hepatitis A virus
- drinking polluted water
- coming in contact with hepatitis A-infected fecal matter
If you contract the virus, you will be contagious two weeks before symptoms even appear. The contagious period will end about one week after symptoms appear.
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Pregnancy And Hepatitis A Immunisation
Hepatitis A immunisation is not usually recommended for women who are pregnant although vaccination might be recommended in some situations.
Speak with your doctor if you are not immune to hepatitis A and you are at increased risk of infection or if you have a pre-existing medical condition such as liver disease.
How Long Does The Hepatitis A Vaccine Last
We dont know exactly how long the protection of the vaccine lasts, but studies have indicated that it lasts at least 20 years in some people and it could last as long as 40 years or more. Having only one dose of the recommended two-dose vaccine has shown to provide protection for at least 10 years.
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How Is Hepatitis A Treated
If you think youâve been exposed to hepatitis A, you should see your doctor right away. Getting a vaccine or a drug called hepatitis A immune globulin could keep you from getting sick. But for this to work, youâll need to get the vaccine very soon after coming into contact with the virus.
Thereâs no treatment once youâve been infected. Youâll have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus. Most people find that their liver is healed within 6 months.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Do I need treatment?
- What treatment is best for me?
- Will I need be hospitalized?
- Are there any medicines I should avoid taking?
- Are there foods I should avoid eating?
- Can I drink alcohol?
- How can I protect my family from getting hepatitis A?
- If Ive had hepatitis A, am I at higher risk of getting other types of hepatitis?
- Will I have permanent liver damage?
- How soon before I travel should I be vaccinated?
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Hepatitis A And E Complications
Rarely, the disease does not resolve, and you may experience complications from hepatitis. Fulminant hepatitis or acute liver failure is rarely associated with hepatitis A and E. A patient with fulminant hepatitis begins to deteriorate rapidly and may present with confusion . This is seen in patients with chronic liver disease or people during pregnancy. There is even a risk of coma and liver and kidney failure.
This condition is rare. Careful management and thorough care provide the best hope for recovery. Liver transplantation may be lifesaving.
Are There Home Remedies For Hepatitis A
The following measures can help you feel better while you are having symptoms.
- Take it easy curtail normal activities and spend time resting at home.
- Drink plenty of clear fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Avoid medicines and substances that can cause harm to the liver such as acetaminophen and preparations that contain acetaminophen.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages, as these can worsen the effects of HAV on the liver.
- Avoid prolonged, vigorous exercise until symptoms start to improve.
Be very careful about personal hygiene to avoid fecal-oral transmission to other members of the household.
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Preventing The Spread Of Infection
While you’re ill, it’s also important to try to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.
- stay off work or school until at least a week after your jaundice or other symptoms started
- avoid preparing food for others if possible
- wash your hands with soap and water regularly, particularly after going to the toilet and before preparing food
- avoid sharing towels
- wash soiled laundry separately on a hot cycle
- clean the toilet, flush handles and taps more frequently than usual
- avoid having sex while you’re infectious hepatitis A is most infectious from around 2 weeks before the symptoms start until about a week after they first develop
Any close contacts, such as people who live in the same house as you, may be advised to have the hepatitis A vaccine to reduce their risk of becoming infected.
Page last reviewed: 11 March 2019 Next review due: 11 March 2022
When To Seek Medical Care For Hepatitis A
Contact a healthcare professional if any of the following symptoms occur:
- Nausea and vomiting that does not improve within 1-2 days
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Pain in the belly
The following situations also warrant a call to a healthcare professional:
- You have symptoms and think that you might have been exposed to someone with hepatitis.
- You have other medical problems and think that you might have hepatitis.
- You have had close contact with someone diagnosed with hepatitis.
If you cannot reach your primary doctor and have any of the following symptoms, go to an emergency department or an urgent care facility:
- Vomiting and inability to keep down any liquids
- Severe pain or high fever
- Confusion, delirium, or difficulty awakening
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How Do Doctors Diagnose Hepatitis A
Doctors diagnose hepatitis A based on symptoms and a blood test. A health care professional will take a blood sample from you and send the sample to a lab. A blood test will detect antibodies to the hepatitis A virus called immunoglobulin M antibodies and show whether you have acute hepatitis A. If the blood test finds antibodies to the hepatitis A virus that are not IgM antibodies, then you are immune to hepatitis A, due to either past hepatitis A infection or hepatitis A vaccination.
Precautionary Treatment After Exposure
If a person has not been vaccinated, and they know they have been exposed to HAV, they can still receive either the vaccine or immune globulin within 2 weeks of the exposure.
This may include:
- colleagues of a food handler who has tested positive for HAV
- employees and children in a daycare center where someone has received a diagnosis of HAV
- anyone in close personal contact with a person who has HAV, including nurses or carers
Which treatment they should receive will depend on the age and health status of the person.
Prevention depends on immunization and good hygiene practices.
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What Is The Medical Treatment For Hepatitis A
- If a patient becomes dehydrated, the doctor may prescribe IV fluids.
- If a patient is experiencing significant nausea and vomiting, he or she will receive medicines to control these symptoms.
- People whose symptoms are well controlled can be cared for at home.
- If dehydration or other symptoms are severe, or if the patient is extremely confused or difficult to arouse, he or she will most likely be hospitalized.
Who Is At Risk For Infection
Anyone who is not immune to hepatitis A can get hepatitis A infection. Food-borne outbreaks occur sporadically throughout the USA. Certain groups of people do have a higher risk of developing HAV infection and should be vaccinated:
- Persons experiencing homelessness
- People who eat raw or under-cooked shellfish
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Do Medicines Used To Treat Autoimmune Hepatitis Have Side Effects
Medicines for autoimmune hepatitis can cause side effects. Your doctor will monitor any side effects and help you manage them while you take these medicines. Your doctor also may adjust the doses or change the medicines you take. You may need to stop taking corticosteroids or azathioprine if you have severe side effects.
Side effects of corticosteroids may include
- changes in how you look, which may include weight gain, a fuller face, acne, or more facial hair
- liver damage
Corticosteroids and azathioprine suppress, or decrease the activity of, your immune system, which increases your risk for infections. These medicines can also increase your risk of developing cancers, especially skin cancers.
What Is Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A, also called hep A, is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. Some people have only a mild illness that lasts a few weeks. Others have more severe problems that can last months. You usually get the disease when you eat or drink something contaminated by poop from a person who has the virus.
The hepatitis A virus usually isnât dangerous. Almost everyone who has it gets better. But because it can take a while to go away, youâll need to take care of yourself in the meantime.
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Can Hepatitis A Be Treated
There is no drug treatment for hepatitis A. The disease will eventually run its course and an infected person will recover completely although recovery time varies for each person. Recovery from this virus infection means that you are protected for life from getting it again.
The following are some ways of dealing with the symptoms:
- You will feel tired and may have very little energy. You may need to take time off from daily activities, work or school to recover.
- Nausea and vomiting may cause you to lose your appetite. Try to eat small snacks and soft foods such as soup or toast.
- You may look yellow. Once you become yellow, you are no longer infectious. There is no need to isolate yourself. Let people around you know it is OK to be near you.
- Try not to drink alcohol. Your liver may not be able to process alcohol and alcohol may make your symptoms worse.
- Talk to your doctor before taking over-the-counter medications or complementary medicine. None of the alternative therapies have proved helpful in treating hepatitis A.
What Are The Treatments For Hepatitis A
If you have not had the vaccine, and your infection has been confirmed by a blood sample, your healthcare provider might give you the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin . This only works if the medicine is given within two weeks of you being exposed to HAV.
If you were exposed and are unable to get the vaccine or the immune globulin, you are likely to recover without treatment. However, your healthcare provider will probably recommend that you follow the following self-care recommendations:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Review any type of medicineprescription and over-the-counterthat you take with your healthcare provider. Even things like supplements or vitamins could cause damage to your liver.
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Is Hepatitis A Contagious
The hepatitis A virus is found predominantly in the stools of people with hepatitis A. HAV is transmitted when a person puts something in his or her mouth that has been contaminated with the feces of an affected person. This is referred to as fecal-oral transmission. However, variations of this primary way in which a contagious person transmits the disease are as follows:
- Food or drinking water contaminated with stool from an infected person can cause the virus to quickly spread to anyone who drinks or swallows the contaminated food or water.
- Eating raw or undercooked shellfish collected from water that has been contaminated by sewage
- Blood transfusions, although this is extremely rare
- Sexual contact, especially oral/anal
Hepatitis A Transmission
People who are infected can start spreading the infection about 1 week after their own exposure. People who do not have symptoms can still spread the virus. Infection with HAV occurs throughout the world.
- The risk of infection is greatest in developing countries with poor sanitation or poor personal hygiene standards.
- Infection rates are also higher in areas where direct fecal-oral transmission is likely to occur, such as daycare centers, prisons, and mental institutions.
People at increased risk for hepatitis A infection include:
Individuals who work in professions such as health care, food preparation, and sewage and wastewater management are not at greater risk of infection than the general public.
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.
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Complications Of Hepatitis A
Around 10% of people who have had hepatitis A experience a relapse . Most people who have a relapse fully recover.
Hepatitis A does not cause chronic liver disease.
The severity of the disease is more severe in older age groups.
Complications of hepatitis A are rare, but the infection can lead to fulminant hepatitis. This is an acute form of hepatitis that can cause liver failure. The risk of death from fulminant hepatitis increases with age.
What Are The Symptoms Of The Hepatitis A Virus
Low energy is the most common symptom of HAV. Other symptoms include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, headache, itchy skin, muscle soreness, pain near the liver, and jaundice .
Symptoms of HAV can occur two to seven weeks after infection and are often mild. Children may not have any symptoms. Symptoms usually go away within two months. If you think you have HAV, it is important to see a doctor symptoms of HAV are similar to other more serious liver diseases.
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How Do I Know If I Am Infected With Viral Hepatitis
The number of new HBV and HCV infections has been declining in recent years, but the number of people living with chronic hepatitis infections is considerable, and deaths associated with untreated, chronic hepatitis infections have been on the rise. This is because most people dont know they are infected until the disease has begun to damage the liver, highlighting why screening for viral hepatitis is so important. People with a history of drug use are generally at higher risk, and should discuss their substance use with their health care provider.
Initial screening for HBV or HCV involves antibody tests, which show whether you have been exposed to the hepatitis virus, although not necessarily whether you are still infected. A positive antibody test should then be followed up with a test that measures the amount of virus in your blood. If this follow-up test is positive, then you should seek advice from a physician that specializes in viral hepatitis treatment. Because screening for hepatitis is so critical for linking people who test positive to the care they need, NIDA is studying new rapid HCV antibody tests that can be used in drug treatment settings.
The CDC recommends that people who inject drugs be tested for hepatitis B and C as part of routine medical care. To determine if you are at risk for contracting hepatitis, HHS has created an online assessment tool to help you find out.
How Do People Get Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of people with HAV infection. It enters the body through the mouth after someone handles something contaminated with HAV, or eats or drinks something contaminated with HAV.
People usually get hepatitis A by having close contact with a person who is infected, from food or drinks prepared by someone who is infected, or by eating shellfish harvested from sewage-contaminated water. After the virus enters the body, there is an incubation period lasting 2 to 7 weeks until illness begins.
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