What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a virus that infects and causes inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is swelling that occurs when tissues of the body become injured or infected.
The liver is one of the body’s organs responsible for important functions such as:
- Removal of harmful chemicals from the blood.
- Prevention and curtailing of infection.
- Digestion of food.
- Storage of nutrients and vitamins.
- Storage of energy.
How Is It Transmitted?
You could get hepatitis A through contact with an infected person's stool. This contact could occur by:
- Eating food made by an infected person who didn't wash his or her hands after using the bathroom.
- Drinking untreated water or eating food washed in untreated water.
- Placing a finger or object in your mouth that came into contact with an infected person's stool.
- Having close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill with hepatitis A.
Who Is At Risk?
People at risk of being infected with hepatitis A virus include;
- People who use needles and syringes for illegal drugs.
- Men who have sex with men.
- People who live with individuals that have the disease.
What Are The Symptoms Seen?
Most people do not have any symptoms of hepatitis A. However, symptoms can occur 2 to 7 weeks after coming into contact with the virus. They include:
- Feeling tired.
- Muscle soreness.
- Loss of appetite.
- Stomach pain.
- Dark urine.
- Pale stool.
- Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice).
How is Hepatitis A Diagnosed?
Hepatitis A is diagnosed by blood tests.
How Is It Treated?
Hepatitis A usually resolves in a few weeks without treatment and when you recover, your body will have learned to fight off a future hepatitis A infection. However, you can still get other kinds of hepatitis. Some people can have symptoms for up to 6 months. Talk with your doctor before taking prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
How Can Hepatitis A Infection Be Prevented?
- Hepatitis A vaccine can help protect against the disease; two shots are required, but some protection begins even after the first shot; the shots do not protect individuals against other hepatitis-causing viruses (types B, C, and others).
- Hepatitis A immune globulin may protect some people if administered shortly after initial exposure to the virus; research is ongoing to produce other treatments.
- Adults at higher risk of getting hepatitis A and people with chronic liver disease should also be vaccinated.
- If you are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common, be vaccinated
- always wash your hands with warm, soapy water after using the toilet or changing diapers and before fixing food or eating.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Avoid drinking alcohol, which can harm the liver.
Article By: Dr. Leke Odufuye