How Long Can You Live With Hepatitis A Curable Vaccine

How Long Can You Live With Hepatitis A?

The acute illness of hepatitis A typically subsides within two months, but may last up to six months in severe cases.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus, found in the stools and blood of infected people.

Hepatitis A is one of the most common infectious liver illnesses, affecting children worldwide.

  • Acute illness of hepatitis A is usually seen for a few weeks and subsides within two months. However, it may last for up to six months in severe cases.
  • Death due to hepatitis A is rare and primarily seen in older people or those with chronic liver diseases.

Hepatitis A is usually mild and self-limiting, with no persistent viral shedding or chronic stage. However, recurrences, acute fulminant hepatitis, and other serious consequences are possible.

Hepatitis A can occasionally lead to acute liver failure, a serious and life-threatening illness. The vaccine can prevent infection with the hepatitis A virus.

How does hepatitis A spread?

The hepatitis A virus is generally spread through the fecal-oral route, which occurs when an uninfected person consumes food or drink contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Infection can occur after consuming food prepared by an infected person with contaminated hands.

  • Waterborne epidemics, although not common, are generally linked to sewage contamination or improperly cleaned water.
  • Close physical contact, such as oral-anal sex with an infected individual, can transmit the virus. However, casual contact between people does not spread the virus.
  • An infected person can spread the virus before developing any symptoms.
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The hepatitis A virus can spread in the following ways:

  • Consuming food touched by an infected person who does not properly wash their hands after using the restroom
  • Consuming raw shellfish from sewage-polluted water
  • Consuming tainted water
  • Not washing hands properly after
  • Handling diapers of an infected child
  • Cleaning up an infected person’s stool

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

The hepatitis A virus has an incubation period of 14 to 28 days, but a person can spread the virus even before symptoms appear.

Not all patients with hepatitis A develop symptoms; many remain asymptomatic and unknowingly spread the virus to others.

If you develop symptoms of hepatitis A, they may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Yellow discoloration of skin and sclera of the eye (jaundice)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Constant feeling of tiredness and weakness
  • Pale colored feces
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Intense itchy skin rash
  • Low-grade fever
  • Pain in the joints and muscles

The symptoms caused by hepatitis A are usually minimal and resolve within a few weeks, but can last for months in severe cases.

Adults are more likely to show signs and symptoms of the illness than children. The severity of the illness is greater in older age groups. Children under six years old generally do not show symptoms, and jaundice is only seen in 10 percent of infected children.

There is a chance of hepatitis A relapse, where a person who has recently recovered becomes ill again with another acute episode. Relapse is usually seen after complete recovery.

What are the risk factors of hepatitis A?

All age groups are prone to hepatitis A infection, especially immunocompromised patients.

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It is crucial to identify and prevent factors that cause hepatitis A, including:

  • Men who have sex with men
  • Being in close contact with a person infected with hepatitis A
  • People who use illegal drugs
  • Using needles contaminated with hepatitis A virus
  • Poor sanitation
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • International travelers
  • Traveling to endemic areas without immunization
  • Homeless individuals
  • Hemophilia
  • Patients with human immunodeficiency virus
  • People working in child care centers
  • Patients with chronic liver diseases, such as hepatitis B and C

QUESTION

How is hepatitis A diagnosed?

A doctor diagnoses hepatitis A based on symptoms and blood work. However, it is challenging to clinically distinguish hepatitis A from other acute viral hepatitis.

Jaundice may be present in more than 70 percent of hepatitis A virus-infected children and adults. A physical examination may reveal an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly) and spleen (splenomegaly).

A specialized blood test is performed to detect the presence of immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies that the body creates against the hepatitis A virus.

An additional test, reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, is conducted to detect hepatitis A virus RNA in the body.

What are the treatment options for hepatitis A?

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A; infected individuals are treated based on their symptoms. The body will eventually eliminate the virus, though it may take a few months for complete recovery.

A person should maintain a proper diet, drink plenty of fluids, and get plenty of rest to recover. Their surroundings should be well-ventilated, and the patient should wear loose clothing and avoid hot showers to reduce itching, if present. The doctor may prescribe antihistamine drugs to control itching.

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The doctor will advise avoiding alcohol, certain medications like acetaminophen, and vitamins that require liver metabolism. These substances can increase liver inflammation and damage. It is highly recommended to consult a doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.

Hospital admission may be necessary for patients with severe diseases, such as acute liver failure or symptoms like severe pain, excessive vomiting, confusion, tremors, severe dehydration, and jaundice.

How to prevent hepatitis A?

Vaccination is the best method to prevent hepatitis A.

Other methods to prevent hepatitis A include:

  • Washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water before eating, drinking, or cooking, after using the restroom, and after handling diapers of children or adults.
  • Drinking bottled or boiled water, especially in underdeveloped nations and high-risk endemic areas, to avoid drinking contaminated water.
  • Avoiding food from street vendors where there is a higher risk of food and water contamination. Always prefer established eateries that take maximum precautions to avoid such contamination.
  • Always washing fruits and vegetables before consumption.
  • Keeping the house and surroundings clean; frequently disinfecting restrooms.
  • Maintaining a proper diet and improving immunity through healthy habits, such as regular exercise and sufficient sleep.
  • Consulting a doctor immediately when exposed to the virus or when symptoms of the disease are identified.

What are the guidelines for hepatitis A vaccination?

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends hepatitis A vaccination for all children between 12 and 23 months old.
  • Children and adolescents aged 2 to 18 years who have not received the hepatitis A vaccine should receive a "catch up" vaccination.
  • People at risk of acquiring hepatitis A virus as an occupational hazard, such as those working directly with the virus or infected primates in laboratories.

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