Hepatitis A

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  • What is it? Hepatitis A (Hep A or HAV) is a common infection in many parts of the world but only about 700 cases were reported in England and Wales in England in 2004. Hepatitis A is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver.
  • Symptoms: In many cases people may have no symptoms at all but they can still pass on the virus to others. 10 to 14 days after infection, people with Hepatitis A, who show symptoms, may suffer flu like symptoms, fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of appetite, mild weight loss, itchy skin, darker yellow urine, pale stools, some people will develop jaundice, which causes yellow eyes and skin. Occasionally people may need to be admitted to hospital. The older you are when you catch it, the stronger the symptoms are. Approx 4 to 8 weeks after infection, most people should recover totally and very few people with Hepatitis A suffer liver failure.
  • Transmission: Hepatitis A is found in faeces and is spread when you inadvertently ingest the faeces of someone who is infected with it. It is possible to become infected through eating or drinking contaminated food or water but can also be passed on sexually. Any sexual activity where even a tiny amount of someone else’s faeces could enter your mouth could cause infection. Examples of this could be  ‘Rimming’ (using the mouth to stimulate someone else’s anus) or going down on someone who had just had anal sex with someone else. Using new condoms and ensuring careful hand washing after going to the toilet and before eating, can minimise the risk of the virus being passed on.
  • Treatment: Hepatitis A can be diagnosed via blood tests If tested positive this could mean one of two things;
  • You have been in contact with the Hepatitis A virus and your body has cleared it. You now have a natural protection against future infection with the Hepatitis A virus.
  • You currently have the infection your doctor will ask you questions to find out if others have been at risk of Hepatitis A. (If you know of anyone this can be helpful as they may be offered an injection to reduce the severity of the symptoms.)

Most of the symptoms of Hepatitis A settle after a few weeks, although some people can feel tired for a number of months after infection. Infection with Hepatitis A is usually mild, but very occasionally causes severe inflammation of the liver, which would requires admission to hospital. This is, however, very rare.

  • Immunisation If you are thought to be at risk of Hepatitis A infection, the doctor may advise you to be immunised. People considered at risk are those who are traveling to parts of the world with a high incidence of Hepatitis A or for those whose sexual practices are likely to put them at risk. The vaccine is particularly used for gay men. Immunisation can be;

  • A single injection of Hepatitis A vaccine in the arm, which will give you protection for one year. 

  • A second booster injection at 6-12 months, which gives protection for up to 10 years

or

  • For people who have been in recent contact with someone with Hepatitis A they may be offered immunoglobulin to help try to prevent infection.

  • Post Treatment: If you are infected with Hepatitis A, you should limit the amount of alcohol you drink. The doctor may also offer you dietary advice. Click here for a list of agencies you can contact should you require further information or help.

If there are any health workers that could help us keep our pages updated please mail us as we are very aware that new research and information is constantly being published on Hepatitis A. Your help would be much appreciated.

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