Hepatitis A: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

This article explains what Hepatitis A is, its causes, treatment, and prevention.

Many of us have heard the term Hepatitis A but don't really know what it is or how to treat it. It is a common ailment that can be contagious. It can also be deadly or send you to the hospital for a few days. So, what is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is actually a virus that is found in feces.  The virus is commonly called HAV and is a serious liver disease that causes inflammation of this vital organ. Once infected, the liver cannot function properly which can lead to serious consequences, even death.

Hepatitis A Causes

You can get Hepatitis A from infected foods, water, or from someone who has it and didn't wash their hands before serving you food or giving you a handshake. It is possible to get Hepatitis A from eating at a restaurant where an infected employee did not properly wash their hands before serving you.

Other Hepatitis A causes are:

People who work for day care centers

Anyone having anal sex

People who use recreational injectionable drugs

Health care employees in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living, laboratories, etc.

People with chronic liver problems

Hepatitis A Symptoms

Symptoms for HAV can vary, however, most symptoms are similar to food poisoning symptoms. You may feel like a mild case of the flu is coming on or maybe have mild stomach pains. A fever may or may not be present as well as loss of appetite. Yellowing of the skin or eyes called jaundice may occur as well as light-colored stools. Worst cases report severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and/or vomiting. If symptoms continue for more than 24 hours, see your doctor or go to the hospital.  A simple blood test will determine whether or not you have the virus.

Hepatitis A Treatment

HAV usually leaves your system on its own but it may take several weeks for you to fully recover. Bed rest and lots of fluids are highly recommended, however, if severe pain and diarrhea or vomiting continues, it's advisable to seek medical assistance. Your liver will be inflamed and will need time to return to normal so certain positions such as sitting may not be comfortable for a few days. Rest is what is needed at this stage to give your liver and other inflamed organs a chance to heal. Drinking bottled water and Gatorade will prevent dehydration and will pass unwanted chemicals and bacteria out of your system. Rest is a highly important treatment for this ailment as the severe symptoms dissipate, your body will need rest to get back into shape. 

Hepatitis A Vaccine

There is a Hepatitis A vaccine that will help prevent this virus from erupting in your system.  Although it's not 100% effective, it is highly recommended.  The vaccine consists of two shots and as you receive the first shot the second shot won't be given for 6 months. Anyone over 12 months of age may receive this vaccine.  If you are traveling outside of the United States or live with someone who has Hepatitis A, it's advisable to get this shot.

The Hepatitis A vaccine is given by local or state health departments and they can also answer any questions that you may have regarding Hepatitis A.

Image credit:  Microsoft Clip Art



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