Hepatitis A

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

Hepatitis is a generic term for inflammation of the liver and can affect any age. This can be due to a viral infection, exposure to toxic substances, alcohol, certain medications, or from medical conditions such as immune system disorders.

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 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 occur often as a result of 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 

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.


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 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 the HAV. The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for those travelling to certain regions with a high prevalence of Hepatitis A, those engaging in high-risk sexual behaviours such as oral-anal sex, those who share drugs 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.
This article was last reviewed on Wednesday, January 23, 2019
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