Hepatitis A is an infectious liver disease. It is the most benign of all of hepatitis viruses. Several vaccinations exist to help prevent the disease. So what are the symptoms and types of transmission of the disease?
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is an acute infectious liver disease which is transmitted by the virus which shares the same name. It is the least serious type of viral hepatitis. Unlike hepatitis B or hepatitis C, hepatitis A does not develop into a chronic condition and is very rarely fatal.
The hepatitis A virus (HAV) infects approximately 10 million people across the world every year. For the most part, it is passed on through contaminated water and is one of the most common types of food poisoning. Several vaccines against hepatitis A are available.
Hepatitis A symptoms
Hepatitis A does not often produce any symptoms in the majority of cases and can disappear without you noticing. However, infected people can suffer from clinical signs of the flu: fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting, aches, loss of appetite, abdominal pains.
For infected adults, jaundice also occurs in more than 70% of cases. This is not as common in children. The incubation period of hepatitis A, that is the time that the virus spends in the body, is generally between 14 and 28 days.
Transmission of Hepatitis A
The hepatitis A virus mainly spreads by fecal-oral routes. This means that it is transmitted by consuming food or water which is contaminated by the feces of an infected person.
The disease therefore appears more often in developing countries where bottled water is rarely available and where there are poor sanitary conditions. In fact, HAV is very resistant and can survive in fresh or salty water for several months.
Sometimes HAV can also be transmitted from oral and anal sexual activity. Infected people are contagious even before showing any initial symptoms.
The hepatitis A vaccine
Several vaccines are available which fight against HAV. They are very effective and well tolerated. They contain deactivated hepatitis A viruses which allow the organism to produce specific antibodies. The vaccination is normally recommended for travellers visiting countries where the virus is endemic, where there are sufferers of chronic hepatitis (for whom the disease could be more serious), and when men are having sexual relations with other males.
Good levels of hygiene can also contribute to preventing the transmission of the disease. It is important for every person who is infected to wash their hands with soaps after every time they go to the toilet.
Hepatitis A treatments
There is no specific treatment to cure hepatitis A. It takes a long time for symptoms to disappear, sometimes taking several weeks or months. However, some measures can be taken to speed up the process.
Drinking lots of water, resting and adapting your diet are advised to help prevent the liver from becoming overworked.