The basics of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus. In children it may be very mild, but some adults who develop Hepatitis A are ill enough to miss about four to six weeks of work.
The Hepatitis A virus is found in the feces of infected people. It is usually spread by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated by the stool of a person infected with the virus.
One example of this can occur during food preparation. Hepatitis A may be spread by food that has been handled by infected people who do not wash their hands carefully. Hepatitis A can also be spread by drinking water contaminated with feces or sharing contaminated drug paraphernalia. Symptoms, on the average, appear within 28-30 days.
Fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains and a general feeling of being ill are usually the first symptoms. Usually, dark colored urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes) are noted several days later.
Infected persons usually feel better after 1 to 2 weeks, although they may continue to feel tired for several more weeks.
An infected person can spread the virus one to two weeks before symptoms occur and up to one week after jaundice appears. Once a person is ill there are no special medicines that will help. Generally bed rest is all that is necessary.
Since hepatitis is a disease of the liver, infected persons should avoid drinking alcohol or taking medicines (including aspirin and Tylenol) without first asking their health care provider.
There is a vaccine available for children and adults to protect against Hepatitis A. It is recommended for travelers to areas where the disease is common. It is also recommended for all children at age 12 to 23 months, men who have sex with men and users of illegal drugs.
Individuals with chronic liver disease or clotting–factor disorders should discuss this with their health care providers.
The spread of Hepatitis A can be stopped by always washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the toilet or changing diapers. People with diarrhea should not prepare food for others.
There are several key points to remember to stay healthy. The Hepatitis A virus is usually spread by putting something in one’s mouth that has been contaminated by stool infected with that virus.
Protect yourself by obtaining the Hepatitis A vaccination and by frequent hand washing.