Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

How Common is Hepatitis A in India?

Hepatitis A is highly endemic in India. With improvement in economic and living conditions of the communities, the age of acquiring hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection is shifting from early childhood to adolescence and young adulthood. A few recent hospital-based studies suggest that the prevalence of anti-HAV antibodies among Indian adults has declined to <70%, possibly due to improved sanitation and urbanization

How is Hepatitis A Spread?

Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests faecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by faeces or stool from an infected person.

Hepatitis A can be spread when:

  • An infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touches objects or food.
  • A caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person.
  • Someone engages in certain sexual activities, such as oral-anal contact with an infected person.

Hepatitis A also can be spread through contaminated food or water. This most often occurs in countries where Hepatitis A is common, especially if personal hygiene or sanitary conditions are poor. Contamination of food can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Not everyone has symptoms. If symptoms develop, they usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after becoming infected and can include: • Fever • Fatigue • Loss of appetite • Nausea • Vomiting • Abdominal pain • Grey-colored stools • Dark urine • Joint pain • Jaundice Symptoms are more likely to occur in adults than in children. They usually last less than 2 months, although some people can be ill for as long as 6 months.

How is Hepatitis A Diagnosed and Treated?

A doctor can determine if a person has Hepatitis A by discussing his or her symptoms and taking a blood sample. To treat Hepatitis A, doctors usually recommend rest, adequate nutrition, fluids, and medical monitoring. Some people will need to be hospitalized. It can take a few months before people begin to feel better. How serious is Hepatitis A? Most people who get Hepatitis A feel sick for several months, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. Sometimes Hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, although this is rare and occurs more commonly in people older than 50 and people with other liver diseases.

Can Hepatitis A be Prevented?

Yes. Prevention is possible through public health measures such as clean water supply, improved sanitation and health education.

The other way to prevent Hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated. The Hepatitis A vaccine is safe and effective and given as 2 shots, 6 months apart. Both shots are needed for long-term protection. It’s available in market.