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What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a type of infectious viral disease characterised by inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus that is typically transmitted through eating or drink something contaminated with faecal matter. The disease usually does not cause long term complications and most patients are able to recover without the need for significant medical intervention. 

Causes of Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A infection is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Common ways that hepatitis A virus can spread include:

  • Eating food prepared or handled by a person with hepatitis A who has not washed their hands after using the toilet
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Eating sewage-contaminated raw shellfish
  • Having close contact with a person who is infected
  • Having sex with someone who has the virus

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sudden onset nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Clay-coloured stools
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes 
  • Intense itching

Diagnosis of Hepatitis A

Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination. Diagnostic tests that may be ordered include:

  • Blood tests: These tests detect the presence of antibodies to the virus in your blood.
  • Liver function test: This test determines the health of your liver; a high liver enzyme count can indicate damaged liver tissue.
  • Abdominal ultrasound: This test uses ultrasound waves to create images of internal abdominal organs.
  • Biopsy: A small piece of liver tissue is extracted and examined for the presence of the disease.

Treatment for Hepatitis A

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A other than to control the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A. The various treatment options include:

  • Rest and maintaining comfort
  • Consuming hygienically prepared food 
  • Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration due to nausea or diarrhoea
  • Avoidance of unnecessary medications

Prevention of Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A can be prevented by:

  • Vaccination
  • Practising good hygiene
  • Drinking purified water

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