Hepatitis A is one of a family of viruses that can cause inflammation of the liver. Highly contagious, hepatitis A is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. It can be spread through close personal contact with an infected person, or by eating food or drink that has been contaminated with hepatitis A during harvesting, processing, cooking or serving.
Usually, hepatitis A is a short-term infection that may make a person feel sick for a few weeks to a few months. However, infection with hepatitis A can be life-threatening to older people and those with chronic conditions like HIV. Hepatitis A can potentially cause serious complications, including liver failure and death in rare cases involving those who are immunocompromised.
Most people infected with Hepatitis A fully recover, with no serious effects or long-term liver damage. Once a person recovers from hepatitis A, they have antibodies that make them immune to the disease for the rest of their life. There are also vaccines that can prevent hepatitis A if taken before infection or within 2 weeks of exposure.
Why Hoag for Hepatitis A Treatment in Orange County?
Because common symptoms of hepatitis A like fatigue, loss of appetite and fever are shared by other conditions, it is often difficult to diagnose or gets missed in routine checkups. While most healthy people fully recover from hepatitis A in a few months, for the elderly or those with serious immune issues or liver-related disorders, it can be life threatening.
If you’re facing a hepatitis A diagnosis in Orange County or think you may have been exposed, don’t gamble with your health. Seek the diagnosis and treatment you can trust, at Hoag Digestive Health Institute.
Hoag’s comprehensive Liver Program offers the most advanced care in Orange County for conditions involving the liver, including Hepatitis A, B and C. We’re helping lead the way to a future without viral hepatitis, and we have the team, tools and techniques to effectively treat these challenging diseases today.
Symptoms & Causes of Hepatitis A
The symptoms of hepatitis A are different for every patient and may mimic those of other conditions. Some people with hepatitis A may have no symptoms at all.
According to the CDC, symptoms usually appear 2 to 7 weeks after infection. Most people experience symptoms lasting less than 2 months, though some people can have symptoms for up to 6 months. Even if people feel mild or no symptoms, those who have an active hepatitis A infection can still spread the virus to others through their blood or feces, even in tiny amounts.
- Jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Unexplained fatigue
- Vomiting and nausea
- Unexplained fever
- Pale bowel movements and/or dark urine
- Pain in the joints
(usually seen in those who are immunocompromised or have chronic liver conditions)
- Liver failure
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of contracting hepatitis A. If you are in any of these categories, ask your doctor about being vaccinated against hepatitis A.
Risk factors include:
- Frequent international travel
- Men having sex with men
- Using injectable street drugs like heroin
- Having a job that puts you at risk for exposure, such as in the law enforcement or medical field
- Being homeless
- Having HIV
- Having a chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis C
- Eating unwashed or undercooked foods
Diagnosis & Tests for Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is usually diagnosed through a blood test that looks for antibodies called immunoglobulin M (IgM), which are produced as the body’s immune system fights the disease.
Management & Treatment for Hepatitis A
Most people recover from hepatitis A within a few weeks or months without the need for treatment, though a doctor may recommend diet changes, fluids and rest to aid in recovery. In certain cases, a doctor may also recommend that you take immune globulin, a substance made from blood plasma that contains antibodies that can help your immune system fight the hepatitis A infection.
Those who have severe symptoms due to being immunocompromised or having a chronic liver condition like cirrhosis or hepatitis C may need more extensive care, potentially including a hospital stay.
Prevention of Hepatitis A
One of the best ways to prevent yourself from contracting hepatitis A is by getting the hepatitis A vaccine. If you’ve never been infected with hepatitis A, consider being vaccinated before international travel.
Other ways to potentially protect yourself from hepatitis A infection include:
- Practice good hand-washing hygiene, particularly if someone in your household has been diagnosed with hepatitis A or if you are employed in a medical- or care-related field that brings you in contact with blood, feces or other bodily fluids
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables in clean water before you eat them
- Make sure to cook frozen or prepared foods to an internal temperature of at least 190 degrees, which can kill the hepatitis A virus
- Avoid using injectable street drugs, and if you do, don’t share needles
- Wear a condom if you engage in male/male sex