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Item ID: nht00020b   Source ID: 2

Description: Hepatitis A Definition Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. Causes Hepatitis A virus is usually found in the stool (bowel movement) of people who have the infection. Note: It's not found in everybody, only those who have the infection. It is spread by: Drinking water contaminated by raw sewage Eating food contaminated by the hepatitis A virus, especially if it has not been properly cooked Eating raw or partially cooked shellfish contaminated by raw sewage Putting something in your mouth that has been infected with the hepatitis A virus Sexual contact with a partner infected with the hepatitis A virus (particularly anal sex). Anal sex has an especially high risk but all kinds of sexual intercourse... More

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Hepatitis A Definition Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. Causes Hepatitis A virus is usually found in the stool (bowel movement) of people who have the infection. Note: It's not found in everybody, only those who have the infection. It is spread by: Drinking water contaminated by raw sewage Eating food contaminated by the hepatitis A virus, especially if it has not been properly cooked Eating raw or partially cooked shellfish contaminated by raw sewage Putting something in your mouth that has been infected with the hepatitis A virus Sexual contact with a partner infected with the hepatitis A virus (particularly anal sex). Anal sex has an especially high risk but all kinds of sexual intercourse can spread the disease. Risk Factors A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Sexual contact with a partner who has hepatitis A Childcare workers who change diapers or toilet train children Children in daycare centers Close contact with an infected person (Note: the virus is generally not spread by casual contact.) Hemophiliacs receiving plasma products Injecting drugs, especially if you use shared needles Institutionalized patients Sexual contact with multiple partners Traveling to or spending long periods of time in a country where hepatitis A is common or where sanitation is poor Using household items that were used by an infected person, but were not properly cleaned Symptoms Hepatitis A does not always cause symptoms. Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children. Symptoms include: Abdominal pain or discomfort Darker colored urine Fever Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin) Light or chalky colored stools Loss of appetite Nausea Rash Tiredness Diagnosis The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include: Blood test – to look for hepatitis A antibodies (These are proteins that your body has made to fight the hepatitis A virus.) Liver biopsy – removal of a sample of liver tissue to be examined (only in severe cases) Liver function studies Treatment There are no specific treatments for hepatitis A. The goals of hepatitis A treatment are to: Keep the patient as comfortable as possible Prevent more liver damage by helping the patient avoid substances (medications, alcohol) which might stress the liver while it's healing Prevent the infection from being passed to others The disease generally will go away without treatment within 2-5 weeks. However, about 15% of people who are infected by hepatitis A will have relapsing symptoms for up to 9 months. In almost all cases, once you recover, there are no after affects, and you are immune to the virus. In rare cases, hepatitis A infection will be so severe that a liver transplant may be needed. Prevention Proper Sanitary Habits Avoid injected drug use, especially with shared needles. Avoid sexual contact with a person infected with hepatitis A. Avoid using household utensils that a person infected with hepatitis A may touch. Carefully clean all household utensils after use by a person infected with hepatitis A virus. Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper. Wash your hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food. Immune (gamma) Globulin This is a preparation containing antibodies that provides temporary protection from hepatitis A (about 1-3 months). It must be given: Before exposure to the virus or Within 2 weeks after exposure to the virus Hepatitis A Vaccine This vaccine is made from inactive hepatitis A virus, and is highly effective in preventing infection. It provides full protection 4 weeks after the first injection. [The hepatitis vaccine takes a month to become fully effective.] A second injection provides protection lasting up to 20 years. The vaccine is recommended for: Children who live in areas that have repeated hepatitis A epidemics Men who have sex with men People traveling to countries where sanitary conditions are poor People who have a chronic liver disease or a clotting factor disorder People who have close physical contact with people who live in areas with poor sanitary conditions People who inject illicit drugs Check with your doctor to see if you should receive the vaccine, and if so, when and how many injections you should have. Last reviewed: November 2003 by Elizabeth Smoots, MD .

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