What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. The liver becomes inflamed, tender, and swollen.
How does it occur?
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus can be spread by contact with infected bowel movements. An infected person may pass hepatitis A to others by not washing his or her hands, especially after using the bathroom. You might get the virus from:
- Food handled by an infected person
- Water contaminated with sewage
- Shellfish taken from contaminated waters.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after you are infected with the virus. Hepatitis A is sometimes so mild that there are no obvious symptoms. If you have symptoms, the illness usually begins with these flu-like symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- General aching
How is it treated?
The usual treatment is rest and avoiding alcohol for at least 6 months. You will not have to stay in the hospital unless you have a very serious case.
Antibiotics are not useful in treating hepatitis A.
How long will the effects last?
Recovery from hepatitis A usually takes 4 to 8 weeks. The disease rarely has lasting effects such as permanent liver damage.
Hepatitis that lasts more than 6 months usually isn’t caused by hepatitis A infection.
What can be done to help prevent hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A can be spread only by people with active infections. It is usually contagious for 2 to 3 weeks before symptoms appear and for 2 to 3 weeks afterward. During this time, others can pick up the virus by touching anything contaminated with bowel movements of the infected person.
You can get shots that prevent hepatitis A. Two shots are given 6 months apart.