What is hepatitis A (HAV)?
HAV is a virus that causes acute inflammation of the liver. HAV infection results in lifelong immunity to further infections. HAV does not lead to chronic disease. Per the CDC, 33% of American citizens have been infected with HAV.
What are the risk factors for HAV infection?
- Foreign travel. HAV is associated with contaminated food and water supplies.
- Household contact with an infected person.
- Living in an area with an HAV outbreak.
- Anal-oral sex with an infected person.
- IV drug use.
How is HAV transmitted?
HAV is transmitted by the fecal/oral route by ingestion of fecal contaminated food and water, or through close personal contact with an infected person. HAV can remain infectious for up to 10 months in water. For this reason all shellfish should be thoroughly cooked.
What are the signs and symptoms of HAV infection?
Symptoms vary from no symptoms to light stools, dark urine, fatigue, fever and jaundice. Symptoms usually last less than (2) months.
How can I find out if I am infected with HAV?
A blood test is available. Check with your physician if you suspect that you may have hepatitis of any form.
How can I prevent HAV infection?
- Vaccination with (2) doses of vaccine to any uninfected individuals over 2 years old.
- Effective hand washing technique
- Exercise caution when traveling to foreign countries.
- Drink only safe water (water that is canned, boiled, or bottled). Avoid beverages made with ice. Boiling is the most effective method to ensure safe water. At high altitudes boil vigorously for a few minutes, then allow it to cool; do not add ice. Chemical disinfection can be accomplished through the use of either iodine or chlorine, iodine is the most effective disinfectant.
- Eat only safe food (that is food thoroughly cooked and prepared). Avoid uncooked shellfish, and uncooked fruit/vegetables not peeled or prepared by yourself.
What is the treatment for HAV?
Prevention through vaccination is the best strategy. Immune globulin can be administered for short term protection.
How can I protect others from catching HAV?
Household contacts can be protected through vaccination. Wash hands after going to the toilet. Clean surfaces contaminated with feces.