Hepatitis A is a highly infectious viral disease that affects the liver. It is one of the most common viral infections worldwide.
It is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). This virus can be spread via the fecal–oral route, meaning, via ingestion of material contaminated with an infected person's feces. This mainly happens through eating food contaminated with the human waste of individuals who have the virus, or through person-to-person contact (e.g., having oral–anal sex).
Most children who get the virus do not experience any symptoms. Adults are more likely to experience symptoms, and they usually develop these 2–6 weeks after getting the virus. The symptoms include:
• Muscle and joint pain
• Loss of appetite
• Dizziness and vomiting
• Stomach pain
• Dark-colored/brownish urine
• Yellowish skin or eyes
Hepatitis A is diagnosed through a laboratory test that looks for antibodies against the virus in an individual’s blood.
Most of the time, the infection resolves by itself. This means that most people would only require supportive care, including:
• Having enough rest.
• Eating healthy food and drinking enough water.
• Avoiding substances that may affect the liver (e.g., alcohol, paracetamol).
• Taking medications to manage symptoms like fever and vomiting.
Patients who fail to take fluids or are too weak to eat are sometimes brought to the hospital for intravenous administration of fluids and vitamins. In cases where the liver injury is severe, a liver transplant may be required.
Preventive measures against the HAV include:
• Washing hands with soap and water after using the toilet, before preparing food, and before eating.
• Disposing of human waste properly.
• Thoroughly cooking oysters, clams, and other shellfish for 4 minutes or steaming them for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
• Practicing safe handling and storage of food and water.
• Getting vaccinated with the hepatitis A vaccine.