Hepatitis A – HAV – treatment and symptoms

Hepatitis A is an acute infectious disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), which is most commonly transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated food or drinking water. Every year, approximately 10 million people worldwide are infected with the virus. The time between infection and the appearance of the symptoms, (the incubation period), is between two and six weeks and the average incubation period is 28 days.

In developing countries, and in regions with poor hygiene standards, the incidence of infection with this virus is high and the illness is usually contracted in early childhood. HAV has also been found in samples taken to study ocean water quality. Hepatitis A infection causes no clinical signs and symptoms in over 90% of these children and since the infection confers lifelong immunity, the disease is of no special significance to the indigenous population. In Europe, the United States and other industrialized countries, on the other hand, the infection is contracted primarily by susceptible young adults, most of whom are infected with the virus during trips to countries with a high incidence of the disease.

Hepatitis A does not HAVe a chronic stage and does not cause permanent liver damage. Following infection, the immune system makes antibodies against HAV that confer immunity against future infection. The disease can be prevented by vaccination and hepatitis A vaccine has been proven effective in controlling outbreaks worldwide.

Symptoms

Early symptoms of hepatitis A infection can be mistaken for influenza, but some sufferers, especially children, exhibit no symptoms at all. Symptoms typically appear 2 to 6 weeks, (the incubation period), after the initial infection.

Symptoms can return over the following 6-9 months which include:

* Fatigue

* Fever

* Abdominal pain

* Nausea

* Diarrhea

* Appetite loss

* Depression

* Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes

* Sharp pains in the right-upper quadrant of the abdomen

* Weight loss

* Itching

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Sufferers are advised to rest, avoid fatty foods and alcohol (these may be poorly tolerated for some additional months during the recovery phase and cause minor relapses), eat a well-balanced diet, and stay hydrated. Approximately 15% of people diagnosed with hepatitis A may experience one or more symptomatic relapse(s) for up to 24 months after contracting this disease.

wikipedia.org