What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver and it’s usually the result of a viral infection or liver damage caused by drinking alcohol.  There are, however, different types.

Many of us have heard about Hepatitis C.  Pamela Anderson and Steven Tyler are just two of the celebrity sufferers who have shared their experience with this disease.  There is another type of Hepatitis doing the rounds though – Hepatitis A.  And you may be wondering what the difference is.

This type is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and it is highly contagious.

It is usually spread when the virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the faeces (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 it 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 diarrhoea).

The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination 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 virus (such as before travelling to a country where Hepatitis A is common) or to prevent infection after exposure to it.

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.

See your GP as soon as possible if you are in any doubt.

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