Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A? It is a liver inflammation caused by infection with the Hepatitis A virus. In Singapore, the majority of reported Hepatitis A cases were from consuming contaminated food from raw or partially-cooked cockles.

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Hepatitis is a generic term for inflammation of the liver. This can be due to a viral infection, exposure to toxic substances, alcohol, certain medications, or immune system disorder.

What Is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes the liver to become enlarged, inflamed and tender. There is no chronic (long-term) infection. 

The virus is excreted in faeces and transmitted through contaminated food and water. Eating shellfish taken from sewage-contaminated water is a common means of contracting the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). It can also be acquired by close contact with individuals infected with the virus.

A person is infectious for two to three weeks before he or she experiences symptoms, and during the first week of the illness.

Hepatitis A Causes and Risk Factors

HAV infections often occur amid poor sanitation and overcrowding. Outbreaks of HAV have resulted from infected food handlers failing to wash their hands after going to the toilet. There have also been reported cases of people contracting HAV from sexual contact and drug use with infected persons.

Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis A

Jaundice
Fatigue
Fever
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
Pale-coloured stools and dark urine
Itchy skin

Hepatitis A Screening and Diagnosis

Since the symptoms of Hepatitis A infection are non-specific, a blood test to detect the antibody to HAV is often requested. The test will show whether you have been exposed recently to HAV.

Hepatitis A Treatment

There is no specific medication for HAV infection. People often recover after two weeks with bed rest and medications that help relieve the symptoms.

Self-care

Take the following measures to help you feel better and improve your condition:
Take a good rest at home.
Drink enough water to prevent dehydration.
Seek a doctor‘s advice before taking any medication as this can damage the liver.
Avoid drinks with alcohol as this can worsen the liver infection.
Consult your family doctor if symptoms worsen.
Maintain good personal hygiene, such as by frequent and regular handwashing, to avoid faecal-oral transmission to other household members.

Hepatitis A Prevention

The Hepatitis A vaccination is the best protection. Immune globulin can be given for short-term protection. It is given before and within two weeks after coming in contact with HAV. The Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for those travelling to developing countries, sexually active homosexual men, and people with chronic liver disease.

Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, as well as before preparing and eating food.

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Hepatitis A

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