A lot of us have probably heard about Bacteria, Hepatitis B and C and their effects. Some of us are even used to worrying about Escherichia coli in our vegetables or salmonella in some of our nuts but few worry about hepatitis A.
There are however reasons to worry, especially given the fact that the illness can cause an outbreak if an infected person prepares food at a restaurant or any other places where lots of people eat.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral infection that, like other forms of hepatitis, primarily affects the liver, causing severe inflammation within the organ and limiting its ability to function.
The good news however is that this virus isn’t too common in areas of good water sanitation practices and vaccines. Here’s exactly what you need to know about the virus to keep yourself protected and what to do if you get infected.
It’s Not Sexually Transmitted
It’s a common misconception that hepatitis A is an STI, but it’s not. Rather, it is a viral infection that is spread through feacal-oral contact, or simply coming into oral contact with (or, ingesting) the feacal matter of someone who is currently infected.
Also, drinking contaminated water, eating food prepared by someone with the infection, or ingesting food washed in or polluted by sewage are the most common ways to get it.
If you however have any type of sexual contact with someone at the time when they are infected, there is a chance that you too can get infected. It can be spread through sexual acts that involve the rectum, such as anal sex or rimming with an infected person.
You also can’t get hepatitis A from being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person, sitting next to an infected person, hugging an infected person, or if you have gotten the vaccine
You Can Get A Vaccine
Hepatitis A is almost 100 percent preventable with the hep A vaccination. The vaccine is given in two doses, six to 12 months apart, and is effective immediately following the second shot. It can confer immunity from the virus for about 20 years.
Furthermore, a combination of hep A and hep B vaccine exists, so the hope is that eventually people will start getting the combo-vaccine because hep B vaccine is required.
It Maybe Asymptomatic
Due to its long incubation period of 15 to 50 days, signs and symptoms may not appear in adults until they’ve had the virus for a few weeks. But even then, not everyone who has the virus will show signs.
The most common symptoms are fatigue, sudden nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain on the upper right side of the torso beneath your lower ribs, clay-coloured and textured bowel movements, dark coloured urine, and jaundice of the skin and eyes.
Diagnosis Is Through A Blood Test
A hepatitis A diagnosis must be confirmed by a positive blood test for immunoglobulin M, the antibody to hepatitis A virus. This test can be carried out by a medical laboratory scientist on instruction from the physician.
It Leaves On Its Own And Won’t Return
There is no treatment specifically for hepatitis A that will help it go away faster. Your body will clear the hep A virus on its own usually within two months, and in most cases the liver is completely healed within six months of exposure with no lasting damage.
The symptoms can however be treated. For instance, if someone has a fever, it will be treated. And if someone is especially fatigued, rest will be prescribed. If you have the infection, which inflames in the liver, it’s best to stay away from alcohol, since it will be especially hard for the body to process at the time of infection.
Fortunately, if you end up getting hep A, you can only get it once. And unlike other types of viral hepatitis, hepatitis A does not cause long-term liver damage on its own.