Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.
Leann Poston, M.D.
Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.
May 6, 2021
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease that is counted among the various strains of hepatitis or an inflammatory condition of the liver. “Hep-A,” as it’s known, may be less deadly than its counterparts hepatitis B and C, but it’s still no small medical matter.
Your liver is working day and night to clean your body of toxins, store energy, and create bile to help with your digestion. It’s also the largest solid organ in your body.
If you know the causes, symptoms, and treatments for hepatitis A, you’re more likely to keep this viral infection from impacting your health.
If you have hepatitis A, and looking for treatment options, PlushCare is a great place to start. Our partners at PlushCare, a top telehealth company can help to diagnose, create treatment plans for, and even prescribe medication, all online. Click here to make an appointment.
Hepatitis A spreads when your mouth comes into contact with the fecal matter of an infected person. When you have contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person, you may catch the virus. If someone infected with hepatitis A does not wash their hands after using the toilet and then touches objects such as kitchen utensils or food, there may be infected fecal matter on these objects. If you then touch these objects and transfer the fecal material to your mouth, you may become infected.
In countries and regions with poor health services, tainted water supplies, and a general lack of hygienic options, hepatitis A is often transmitted through contaminated food and water. Outbreaks can occur more frequently in these areas, but that does not mean the United States is immune.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Hepatitis A is spread when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person.”
The CDC website lists the highest risk groups as:
Johns Hopkins also lists additional risk factors such as:
You can also get the virus from contaminated food (handled by someone who has hepatitis A). Everyone needs to be on the lookout for risky situations and hepatitis A symptoms.
The symptoms of “Hep-A” are much the same as other hepatitis infections. They include:
The virus itself has an incubation period between two to four weeks, so it can take that long for symptoms to show after exposure. And it’s important to note: many infected people never show symptoms but can easily pass the disease on to others.
If you notice symptoms or believe that you may have been exposed to hepatitis A, get a test—for your health and the health of those around you.
The testing for hepatitis A is relatively straightforward; a simple blood test can determine if you have hepatitis. It’s important to note: more sophisticated tests are required to distinguish hepatitis A from its more dangerous counterparts B and C.
A blood test called IgM anti-HAV looks specifically for antibodies to Hep-A in your blood. If you have the antibodies, you have had a hepatitis A infection.
There is a vaccine available for hepatitis A, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends it for anyone who believes they need it. In July 2020, the WHO reported that over thirty countries were planning on introducing the vaccine, particularly in areas where the disease was more widespread. The report went on to say:
“Some countries also recommend the vaccine for people at increased risk of hepatitis A, including:
And, of course, if you are traveling to areas of the world where there is a risk of contracting hepatitis A from drinking water or food, take the necessary precaution of a vaccine.
These and other efforts to combat the various strains of hepatitis are part of the W.H.O.’s 2020 theme, “Hepatitis-free future.” Keep up with your knowledge, safety precautions, and hygiene, and you’ll be a healthy member of that future as well!
The good news is that hepatitis A, while serious, does not often lead to life-threatening issues such as liver failure. In fact, many people improve without any medical care at all.
But in some cases, your symptoms may be severe enough to require the help of a doctor. Make an appointment right away if they are severe or if they leave and then return. One option is visiting our telehealth sister site, PlushCare.
Doctors at PlushCare can help you come up with a plan that takes into account the severity of your symptoms as well as your risk favors. Often, very simple courses of medication will keep you comfortable while hepatitis A runs its course. PlushCare doctors can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication all via virtual appointments.
Click here to make an appointment with a PlushCare doctor.
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