Hepatitis A

November 12, 2012

Hepatitis A

There are many different types of the hepatitis virus, which are identified with different letter after the word hepatitis. The letters used are A-E and the name is often shortened, so hepatitis A would become hep A. Each of the different forms is spread in different ways but they all cause the same problem of an inflamed liver. This can make your liver feel swollen or painful. Hepatitis can be caused by excessive alcohol or drug consumption but can also be caused by an infectious virus. As each form is spread in a different way, there are also different precautions, which can be taken to help prevent people from catching the disease. Hepatitis A can cause a varied level of reaction from person to person. Some people get very sick where as some people show no symptoms at all. Symptoms of more severe cases can include loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea and pain in the liver, which would be felt under the right rib cage. Another symptom is jaundice, which is when your skin and eyes turn slightly yellow and your urine is darker than usual. It is more common for the symptoms to show up in adults that children, even when they are infected. Hepatitis A has an incubation period of between 15-50 days with most people becoming ill about 28 days after catching the virus. The virus is contagious from two weeks before you show symptoms until a week after you became jaundiced. The virus is contracted orally, multiplies in the liver and is then passed in the faeces. If an infected person’s hands become contaminated, for example after they use the toilet, then the virus can easily get spread around. This could happen through direct contact, or by touching food, drinks, or other objects, which then get touched or used by someone else. For example drinking or eating contaminated food or out of contaminated containers could cause hepatitis A, as could eating shellfish from contaminated water. Hepatitis A can also be spread via contact with the anal area of an infected person.

There a few basic procedures that should be carried out in order to avoid getting hepatitis A. It is good hygiene practise to thoroughly wash your hands with warm running water and soap for at least 15 seconds after using the toilet. You should also wash your hands before handling or preparing food, before eating, after changing a nappy and after handling a used condom. The best way to dry your hands is with an air dryer or disposable paper towels as shared cloth towels get dirty quickly and germs can be spread from one person to the next.

It is important to keep all bathrooms and toilets in the house as clean as possible. Clean toilet seats, nappy changing tables and anywhere that you touch, such as taps and door handles regularly to avoid the spread of virus. Also be aware that water from untreated sources such as lakes and rivers has the potential to be contaminated with human faeces. Only drink this water once you have boiled it.

Some people have an increased chance of catching Hepatitis A and should be immunised by a nurse or doctor. Immunisation is highly effective and is administered in a course of injections over 6 months to a year. People who should be immunised include people with a weak liver due to disease or transplant, food handlers, healthcare workers, childcare workers, sewage workers and people travelling overseas to developing countries.

If you notice the symptoms and think you may have hepatitis A, you should see your doctor. A blood test can confirm whether or not you have the infection and if necessary family members will be offered an injection, which can reduce the symptoms if given within the right time frame. There is no direct treatment available once the symptoms are showing, just get plenty of rest until your liver has recovered.

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