Liver Transplant Transplant Services

Hepatitis A

What is hepatitis?

The liver is one of the organs that helps with digestion but is not part of the digestive tract. It is the largest organ in the body and carries out many important functions, such as making bile, changing food into energy, and cleaning alcohol and poisons from the blood.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that sometimes causes permanent damage. It is caused by viruses, bacteria, certain medications, or alcohol. Generally, symptoms of hepatitis include fever, jaundice, and an enlarged liver. There are several types of hepatitis.

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious and sometimes serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Once called infectious hepatitis, today it is more commonly known as hepatitis A. Approximately one-third of Americans have been exposed to hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A does not result in chronic infection, but complete recovery from hepatitis A can be slow. In adult patients with hepatitis A, the illness may last for at least one month, with recovery taking up to six months. Some 20 percent of patients may have a relapse of the disease and may be impaired for as long as 15 months. Also, an estimated 15 percent of patients require hospitalization for hepatitis A.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

The following are the most common symptoms of hepatitis A. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms of hepatitis A often resemble flu-like symptoms.

Symptoms may include:

In some adults, and in children, especially in those younger than 6 years of age, there are often no symptoms. The symptoms of hepatitis A may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

What causes hepatitis A?

This type of hepatitis is usually spread by fecal-oral contact or fecal-infected food and water, and may also be spread by blood-borne infection (which is rare).

The following is a list of modes of transmission for hepatitis A:

Generally, casual contact in school or the workplace does not cause spread of the virus.

What are the risk factors for hepatitis A?

Children, teens, and adults who may be at high risk of hepatitis A include the following:

Hepatitis A is sometimes called a traveler's disease because it is the most frequently occurring, vaccine-preventable infection in travelers. However, it is possible to become infected with hepatitis A virus without ever leaving the United States. Some cases reported in the United States have occurred in people with no identifiable risk factors.

Prevention of hepatitis A

In addition to avoiding risky behaviors, there are two methods for prevention of hepatitis A:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the hepatitis A vaccine for the following groups who are at risk for the infection, as well as for anyone who wants to have the vaccine:

How is hepatitis A diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, a blood test called IgM ant-HAV is needed to diagnose hepatitis A.

Treatment for hepatitis A

Specific treatment for hepatitis A will be determined by your physician based on:

Most people recover from hepatitis A infection without medical intervention; however, bedrest and some medications may be suggested.


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