A third outbreak of Hepatitis A has been confirmed in a South Wales school this week.
But what exactly is Hepatitis A?
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Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and it is highly contagious.
It is usually spread when the Hepatitis A virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces (or stool) of an infected person.
This is more likely to occur in countries where Hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene.
The average time between exposure to the virus and the development of hepatitis symptoms is about 30 days.
One of the first viral hepatitis symptoms is a high temperature and fever along with feeling tired and unwell.
Other symptoms include:-
– joint & muscle pain
– loss of appetite
– pain in the upper right part of your stomach
– jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
– dark urine and pale stools
– itchy skin
Hepatitis A in children is usually asymptomatic while in adolescents and adults the symptoms are easier to spot.
Because Hepatitis A can be a mild infection, particularly in children, some people might not know that they’ve had it. It can cause prolonged illness for up to 6 months, but usually only causes short-lived, mild illness.
It does not cause chronic liver disease. In milder cases, symptoms may be similar to a stomach virus (with vomiting and diarrhea).
The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination with the Hepatitis A vaccine but this is not routinely offered on the NHS.
If you are travelling to a higher risk area, such as Africa, Asia, Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe, you are advised to get yourself vaccinated.
Immune globulin can be given either before exposure to the Hepatitis A virus (such as before travel to a country where Hepatitis A is common) or to prevent infection after exposure to the Hepatitis A virus.
Otherwise the NHS advice on managing Hepatitis A includes staying away from school or work for at least a week after your symptoms appeared, getting lots of rest and being meticulous about your personal hygiene.
Public Health Wales say “We continue to work closely with Environmental Health Officers to investigate this outbreak and to offer advice to parents, school staff and pupils. All information received is treated confidentially.
People are advised to contact their own GP or NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 if they have any concerns about their health or their child’s health.”