Griffith – Know the prevention and symptoms of Hep A
January 17, 2010
I have heard recently about Hepatitis A.. What is that?
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus. This virus can live in the water, soil, clothing or utensils, as well as on the body surface for an extended period of time. It is passed through the fecal-oral route. It is very common in developing countries where there is poor sanitation noted. People in these countries often become infected with the virus through eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
There are three well-known types of Hepatitis: Hep. A, B, and C. Hepatitis A is the most common cause of all of the hepatitis.
There has been a decrease in the incidence of Hep. A in the United States since the CDC recommended vaccination of persons at increased risk of complications from hepatitis. In 1996, the CDC recommended vaccination of children living in states with high incidence of Hep. A, such as New Mexico and Arizona.
Currently, the CDC recommends universal vaccinations for children 1 yr. of age and up, individuals with chronic liver disease, other immunocompromised persons, and those traveling abroad.
How exactly can Hep. A be transmitted?
This can occur through person-person contact, homosexual relations, eating of raw/undercooked shellfish, food contaminated by food handlers, day care centers/ institutions/ or other crowded areas (this is usually due to a lack of good hand washing techniques, children with the virus on their hands, playing with a toy and then another child playing with the same toy), blood transfusions or IV drug use.
International travel: 15 percent of reported cases in the U.S. are due to International travel.
Outbreak is usually due to contaminated water or food. One study showed that Hep. A was detected in well water 6 months after the initial contamination.
What is the incubation period?
The range is from 15-39 days
What are the signs and symptoms of Hep. A?
Right upper quadrant pain
Within a few days of symptoms beginning, a person may also experience dark urine, light colored stools, itching, and jaundice. Jaundice usually peaks at 2 weeks.
If I think I might have contracted Hep. A what should I do?
See you primary care provider. After taking a careful history and performing a physical, he or she will determine what tests might be indicated. Your provider may draw a sample of blood and will check your liver enzymes as well as a Hepatitis Panel to determine if you do indeed have Hepatitis.
What is the treatment for Hep. A?
Treatment of your symptoms and rest. You should avoid alcohol, drugs, and other medications unless you have the “go-ahead” from your provider. You should avoid strenuous activity as well. Approximately 85% of people infected with Hep. A have a full recovery in three months or less.
How can I prevent this disease?
Good hand washing. Do not eat raw seafood- cook foods completely. Avoid water and food from endemic areas. Use diluted chlorine (1:100 dilute) to kill Hep. A virus. And, get vaccinated. Children ages 1 through adults should receive a vaccine and then a booster 6-12 months later. If you are planning a trip to an underdeveloped country, be sure to receive your first vaccine at least 2 weeks before your trip.