Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. And the hepatitis A virus causes this inflammation by infecting liver cells. This can impair your liver function, causing liver failure and in some cases even death. Hepatitis A is highly contagious and anyone at any age can pick this up by ingesting a tiny amount of contaminated fecal matter.
There is a hepatitis A vaccine which is included in every child’s vaccination schedule and I highly recommend this as it’s safe and effective. But many adults have not been vaccinated which puts them at risk for this illness. If you contact hepatitis A, there is no treatment except rest. If you end up with acute liver failure, you may need a liver transplant.
If you’re infected with hepatitis A, you’re infectious for two weeks before your symptoms start. Watch out for jaundice or yellowing of the skin, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, dark urine, light-colored bowel movements and pain in your abdomen or near your liver on your right side. These symptoms can last for a few days or up to six months. But not everyone has signs or symptoms.
1. If you haven’t already received the vaccine, get vaccinated for long-term prevention of the hepatitis A virus.
2. Always practice good personal hygiene and wash your hands often.
3. When sick with this or any virus, please don’t cook or prepare food for other people to lower the risk of passing on any potential infections.
4. If you think you’ve been exposed, see your doctor immediately. Getting immunoglobulin therapy or the hepatitis A vaccine within two weeks may protect you from infection.
There are risk factors that increase your chance of getting hepatitis A: Travelling to countries or areas with high rates of Hepatitis A. If you live with someone who has the virus, or have sexual contact with them, or share illegal drugs with someone who has hepatitis A – these will also raise your risk. The virus can also be spread through contaminated water or food.
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