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What is Hepatitis A infection?

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can occur due to various causes; from virus, drug or even alcohol. Many viruses can cause hepatitis directly or indirectly. Hepatitis viruses have their major effect on the liver.

There are several types of hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D, E etc). Hepatitis A virus causes Hepatitis A, a self-limiting illness that is transmitted from person to person through fecal-oral route (means eating or drinking of something that have been contaminated with feces of infected person). People can become infected by eating food or drinking water contaminated by someone who has the virus. Raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated water can also be a source.

What are its signs & symptoms?

It takes about 15 – 40 days for hepatitis A to develop after a person is infected with hepatitis A virus. Not everyone gets sick from hepatitis A. About half of the adults who get infected get sick and may feel ill for about two weeks (sometimes longer).

Most children show few symptoms or signs when infected. Adults develop more severe disease. All infected person even people with no symptom can still infect others. The virus is present in the faeces of the infected person about two weeks before and up to two weeks after symptoms begin.

Symptoms of infection include:

  • Loss of appetite, nausea.
  • Fever.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Tiredness.
  • Jaundice, dark urine and pale stool.

In developing countries, most people are infected during childhood and experience few or no symptoms.

Are there any complications?

There is no long-term complication for hepatitis A. However, the elderly may suffer a more serious illness and may require hospitalization.

Is there any specific treatment?

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A.

  • It is important to rest and take more water.
  • Alcohol should be avoided.
  • Infected individual should stay at home until no longer contagious (one week after the onset of illness).

Can Hepatitis A be prevented?

Hepatitis can be prevented by:

  • Practicing good personal hygiene (wash hands regularly, after going to toilet and before eating).
  • Using safe water supply and proper sanitation.
  • Washing fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Avoiding raw shellfish.

Immunization with hepatitis A vaccine can effectively prevent hepatitis A. It gives about 12 months protection after the first dose and about 5 years after the second dose (for children) and 10 years for adult  Please check with your doctor for schedule and availability.

Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for certain high risk groups and include:

  • People travelling internationally (countries with increase rate of HAV).
  • Peoples in high risk profession, e.g. health care worker, sewage worker.
  • Peoples engaged in high risk behavior e.g. user of injection and non injection illegal drugs.
  • Care providers in childcare or institutional facilities.
  • Persons with chronic liver disease.

Close contacts of persons with hepatitis A infection can be given antibodies in the form of immunoglobulin. This is effective in preventing against illness if given within 2 weeks of exposure (consult your doctor). Hepatitis is notifiable to the public health. This is done to identify source case and contacts to prevent spread of the infection.

Support group

Malaysian Liver Foundation
No 26, Block C, Jalan PJU 1A/3,
Taipan Damansara 2, Ara Damansara,
47301 Petaling Jaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan
Tel : 603-78426101
Email : enquiries@liver.org.my
Website : www.liver.org.my

Last reviewed : 26 April 2012
Content Writer : Dr. Chan Kwai Cheng
Reviewer : Dr. Thahira bt. Jamal Mohamed