Hepatitis A is an acute, contagious disease caused by the Hepatitis A Virus (HAV). This disease usually affects the normal liver functions. The virus usually unfurls itself through contaminated food and water or by direct contact with the infected persons. This disease predominantly occurs in unhygienic surroundings with poor sanitation. The virus usually takes about two to six weeks of incubation time until the onset of first symptoms. The common symptoms are headache, nausea, loss of appetite, high fever, vomiting, diarrhea and yellowness of skin especially eyes and extremities (jaundice like symptoms). In some cases, the disease passes by without the development of any symptoms especially in infants. Although the disease is not rendered fatal but when infects a person above 60 with chronic liver disease, then Hepatitis A can lead to hepatic failure.
Hepatitis A usually spreads through the ingestion of food and water that gets contaminated by the virus from the feces of the infected person. Even though the disease does not spread through touch but can also spread through a sexual contact with the infected person. Inadequate cooking of shellfish can also spread the disease in some cases. One can also unknowingly start spreading the disease prior to the onset of the actual symptoms as the virus stays in the body during the incubation time to reproduce in sufficient number to develop the symptoms of the disease. Rarely it can be transferred through contaminated blood and its products. Hepatitis A from contaminated water generally takes the shape of an epidemic, mostly in under-developed and few developing countries. The disease relapses in nearly 10-15% cases after six to nine months of the first occurrence. The immune system remembers the virus from it’s first attack and it fails to infect for the second time. Usually, the disease can be detected with specific antibodies for the virus. Also, a test for an elevated liver enzyme, Alanine Transferase (ALT) can be a symptom of acute liver disease. A reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test can specifically detect the genetic material (RNA) of the hepatitis A virus. There are no specific Hepatitis A treatable medicines as it is a viral infection. Usually medication is given to treat the symptoms of the disease with common antipyretics (for fever), analgesics (for pain) or some common NSAIDs (Non- Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). Being hydrated, proper rest, healthy fat-free diet and no alcohol composition can help in the faster recovery of the disease.
The disease can be prevented by a number of ways. Vaccination and healthy surroundings with proper sanitation can help prevent the disease. There are usually mandatory Hepatitis A vaccination for children above 12 months of age in most developing countries as these countries are at the highest risk of infection. Other general practices of proper washing of hands after using toilets, proper disposal of fecal material, proper cooking of food especially shellfish, avoid contact with infected person and washing of fresh fruits and vegetables before cooking. Therefore, with proper development of sanitary etiquettes this contagious liver disease can be eradicated.