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Facts About...

HEPATITIS A


What is it?

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) causes liver infection. Symptoms usually develop quickly and last 1 - 2 weeks and include fever, malaise, fatigue, muscle ache, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. After a few days, jaundice may occur. Jaundice is a condition where the skin and the whites of eyes turn yellow. Body fluids such as urine may also darken. Symptoms of hepatitis A start within 50 days, usually 28-30 days, after being infected with the virus.

Symptoms may be very mild and can last for weeks or even months. Some people with hepatitis A get no symptoms at all. Hepatitis A infections in children under 6 years of age are often only recognized by laboratory tests.

Hepatitis A is a reportable disease and must be reported to the Health Department.

How is it spread?

Hepatitis A virus is spread person to person through the fecal oral route. The virus is found in the feces of an infected person, with the highest level of virus in the feces in the 2 weeks prior to jaundice. This is the period of the greatest likelihood of spread. The virus is usually spread by eating or drinking food, water or beverages contaminated with the feces. Failure to wash hands properly after using the toilet or changing diapers will allow the virus to spread from person to person.

Occasionally outbreaks occur when sewage contaminates shellfish or other foods that are eaten raw.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Family members and close contacts can receive injections of immune globulin to boost their resistance to the infection. Vaccine against hepatitis A is also available for people who are concerned or at risk of infection with hepatitis A. Once you have become infected with hepatitis A, you are immune from further infection for life. There is no carrier state for hepatitis A.

How can I protect myself?

More information can be obtained from

Durham Region Health Department, Environmental Help Line 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613

 

April 21, 2016