Hepatitis A Infection: Symptoms, Risk Factors and Transmission

Hepatitis A (also known as infectious hepatitis) is highly contagious disease of liver caused by hepatitis A virus, which is an RNA virus that spread mainly by feco-oral route. There are also several other viruses that can cause hepatitis, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D etc. Hepatitis A virus cause inflammation of liver and reduce its ability to perform its job efficiently.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A virus infection?

Mild cases of hepatitis A infection may not produce any symptoms at all, especially in case of children. Symptoms of hepatitis A infection appear after incubation period (appearance of first symptom after introduction of the organism) of 2-6 weeks. Initial symptoms of hepatitis A may be mistaken for flu.

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection are:

  • Loss of appetite, nausea
  • General weakness or fatigue, muscle pain
  • Fever (usually low grade)
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort or fullness of abdomen
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), yellow (dark) discoloration of urine
  • Clay colored stool.

What are the risk factors of hepatitis A infection?

Following individuals have high risk of contacting hepatitis A infection:

  • Traveling to a region with high incidence of hepatitis A infection, such as traveling to third world countries. If you are traveling to third world countries make sure to take hepatitis A vaccine.
  • HIV infection,
  • Male homosexuals and individuals with multiple sex partners.
  • Drug addiction
  • Living with a person with hepatitis A infection.
  • If you are undergoing treatment with clotting-factor concentrates for hemophilia.

Hepatitis A can be transmitted by following modes:

  • Feco-oral route. This is the most common mode of transmission of hepatitis A infection. If you drink water or consume food contaminated with hepatitis A virus you may get infection. Drinking water may contain hepatitis A virus if water treatment is inadequate. Food may be contaminated from water or from food handlers.
  • Sexual intercourse with a person having hepatitis A infection may transmit the disease.
  • Eating raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated/polluted water.
  • Living with a person with asymptomatic hepatitis A infection may lead to transmission.
  • Rarely hepatitis A may be transmitted by blood products or blood transfusion.

Image: sscreations / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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