Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an acute (short-term but quite severe) infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus.

The hepatitis A virus can survive in the environment on hands for several hours and in food kept at room temperature for considerably longer and is relatively resistant to detergents. Hepatitis A occurs worldwide. In developing countries, most people are infected during childhood due to poor sanitation. With good sanitation and hygiene in the developed world, most people now reach adulthood without being exposed to hepatitis A virus.

In Australia, there are approximately 300–500 cases of hepatitis A reported per year. The number of cases reported has been declining nationally since the late 1990s (DoHA 2006). In 2011 there were 144 diagnosed cases of hepatitis A in Australia (Kirby Institute; 2012). The real number of hepatitis A infections is likely to be more than the number of infections reported. This is because many people with hepatitis A do not have obvious symptoms, do not go to the doctor and so are not tested for hepatitis A.

Up to 40% of people with hepatitis A have no identifiable risk factors for infection.

In Australia infection with hepatitis A is more likely in particular locations and amongst specific groups of people, including:

  • child day-care centres and pre-schools;
  • men who have sex with men;
  • injecting drug users;
  • residential facilities for the intellectually disabled; and
  • travellers to countries where the infection is common (Asia, Africa, South-Pacific, Central and South America).

Infection resulting from contaminated food or water, or an infected food handler is rare in Australia.

Infants and young children infected with hepatitis A will rarely show symptoms of infection and may appear quite well, or have only mild symptoms. The majority of adults will show symptoms.

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are five different hepatitis viruses, hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

Transmission: Hepatitis A is spread mainly through eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. It can also be spread by eating raw shellfish that have come from water contaminated by sewage.

Prevention: There is a vaccination for hepatitis A. Treatment within a few weeks of exposure to the virus can also bring short term immunity. You can reduce the risk of exposure by practicing good hygiene and sanitation, and avoiding drinking water that has come from a potentially unsafe source.

Treatment: As hepatitis A only causes acute hepatitis, the body is often able to clear the infection itself within a few weeks. However, hepatitis A infections can sometimes cause further complications. Reference:

 

Originally published by Hepatitis Australia via worldhepatitisday.org

Information retrieved from Hepatitis Australia