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Hepatitis A Prevention
It’s good that Hepatitis A (HAV) is not as pervasive as Hep C, only 2,700 cases documented in 2011 and less than a 100 cases of related deaths in 2010. But it’s still out there and you need to be aware of the symptoms and how to prevent transmission.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. You’re most likely to contract hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or from close contact with someone who’s already infected. Mild cases of hepatitis A don’t require treatment, and most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage. Blood tests are used to detect the presence of hepatitis A in your body. A sample of blood is taken, usually from a vein in your arm, and sent to a laboratory for testing.
Transmission of Hepatitis A
Person-to-person transmission happens through the fecal-oral route (i.e., ingestion of something that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person) is the primary means of HAV transmission in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most infections result from close personal contact with an infected household member or sex partner. Common-source outbreaks and sporadic cases also can occur from exposure to fecally contaminated food or water.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A
Some persons are asymptomatic. When symptoms are present, they usually occur abruptly and can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
The average incubation period for Hepatitis A is 28 days (range: 15–50 days).
Good hygiene — including handwashing after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food — is also integral to Hepatitis A prevention, given that the virus is transmitted through the fecal–oral route. No specific treatment exists for hepatitis A. Your body will clear the hepatitis A virus on its own. In most cases of hepatitis A, the liver heals completely in a month or two with no lasting damage.