Hepatitis A

From WikiMD's Health & Wellness Encyclopedia


Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). This viral infection is primarily transmitted through the fecal-oral route, meaning that individuals become infected when they ingest food or water contaminated with fecal matter carrying the virus.

Overview

Hepatitis A is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation affecting the liver's ability to function. The liver plays an essential role in metabolism, detoxification, and immune response. Therefore, an infection like hepatitis A can have significant health implications.

Transmission and Risk Factors

The primary mode of transmission for hepatitis A is through the ingestion of food or water contaminated by feces from an infected person. This can occur through poor hygiene practices, such as inadequate hand washing after using the restroom or changing diapers.

Certain factors may increase the risk of hepatitis A infection, including travel or residence in areas with high HAV prevalence, close contact with an infected individual, poor sanitation, and certain sexual practices.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of hepatitis A can range from mild to severe and can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

Diagnosis is typically made through blood tests that detect antibodies produced in response to HAV infection.

Treatment and Prevention

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Management usually involves supportive care, including rest, hydration, and maintaining adequate nutrition.

Prevention of hepatitis A involves good hygiene practices, access to safe water, and proper sanitation. Vaccination is an effective preventive measure and is recommended for those at high risk or traveling to areas with high incidence of hepatitis A.

Prognosis

Most individuals with hepatitis A recover completely with no permanent liver damage. However, in rare cases, hepatitis A can cause severe liver disease, requiring hospitalization.

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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD