Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A
virus. The virus is primarily spread when an uninfected (and unvaccinated)
person ingests food or water that is contaminated with the faeces of an
infected person. The disease is closely associated with unsafe water or food,
inadequate sanitation and poor personal hygiene.
The incubation period of hepatitis A is usually 14–28 days.
Symptoms of hepatitis A range from mild to severe, and can
include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal
discomfort, dark-coloured urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and
whites of the eyes). Not everyone who is infected will have all of the
Adults have signs and symptoms of illness more often than
children. The severity of disease and fatal outcomes are higher in older age
groups. Infected children under 6 years of age do not usually experience
noticeable symptoms, and only 10% develop jaundice. Among older children and
adults, infection usually causes more severe symptoms, with jaundice occurring
in more than 70% of cases. Hepatitis A sometimes relapses. The person who just
recovered falls sick again with another acute episode.
Who is at
· Poor sanitation
· Use of recreational drugs
· Lack of safe water
· Being a sexual partner of someone with acute hepatitis
· Living in a household with an infected person
· Travelling to areas of high endemicity without being
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Recovery
from symptoms following infection may be slow and may take several weeks or
months. Most important is the avoidance of unnecessary medications.
Acetaminophen / Paracetamol and medication against vomiting should not be
Hospitalization is unnecessary in the absence of acute liver
failure. Therapy is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional
balance, including replacement of fluids that are lost from vomiting and
Improved sanitation, food safety and immunization are the
most effective ways to combat hepatitis A.
The spread of
hepatitis A can be reduced by:
· Adequate supplies of safe drinking water;
· Proper disposal of sewage within communities;
· Personal hygiene practices such as regular
hand-washing with safe water.
Several injectable inactivated hepatitis A
vaccines are available internationally. All are similar in terms of how well
they protect people from the virus and their side-effects. No vaccine is
licensed for children younger than 1 year of age. In China, a live oral vaccine
is also available.
Nearly 100% of people develop protective levels of
antibodies to the virus within 1 month after injection of a single dose of
vaccine. Even after exposure to the virus, a single dose of the vaccine within
2 weeks of contact with the virus has protective effects. Still, manufacturers
recommend 2 vaccine doses to ensure a longer-term protection of about 5 to 8
years after vaccination.