|Other encyclopedia topics:||A-Ag Ah-Ap Aq-Az B-Bk Bl-Bz C-Cg Ch-Co Cp-Cz D-Di Dj-Dz E-Ep Eq-Ez F G H-Hf Hg-Hz I-In Io-Iz J K L-Ln Lo-Lz M-Mf Mg-Mz N O P-Pl Pm-Pz Q R S-Sh Si-Sp Sq-Sz T-Tn To-Tz U V W X Y Z 0-9|
|Contents of this page:|
Alternative Names Return to topViral hepatitis
Definition Return to top
Hepatitis A is inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus.
Causes Return to top
The hepatitis A virus is found in the stools, blood, and semen of an infected person about 15 to 45 days before symptoms occur and during the first week of illness.
You can catch hepatitis A if:
There are approximately 100,000 hepatitis A infections in the United States every year.
Risk factors include:
Other common hepatitis virus infections include hepatitis B and hepatitis C, but hepatitis A is the least serious and most mild of these diseases. Both of the others may become chronic illnesses, but hepatitis A does not.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
The doctor will perform a physical examination and may discover that you have an enlarged and tender liver.
Hepatitis serology tests may show:
Treatment Return to top
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Rest is recommended during the acute phase of the disease when the symptoms are most severe. People with acute hepatitis should avoid alcohol and any substances that are toxic to the liver, including acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Fatty foods may cause vomiting, because secretions from the liver are needed to digest fats. Fatty foods are best avoided during the acute phase.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The virus does not remain in the body after the infection has gone away.
Over 85% of people with hepatitis A recover within 3 months. Nearly all patients get better within 6 months.
There is a low risk of death, usually among the elderly and persons with chronic liver disease.
Possible Complications Return to top
There are usually no complications. One in a thousand cases become fulminant hepatitis, which can be life threatening.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of hepatitis.
Prevention Return to top
The following tips can help reduce your risk of spreading or catching the virus:
The virus may spread more rapidly through daycare centers and other places where people are in close contact. Thorough hand-washing before and after each diaper change, before serving food, and after using the restroom may help prevent such outbreaks.
Immune globulin should be given to people in close contact with people with hepatitis A, unless the person is already immune to the virus.
Vaccines that protect against hepatitis A infection are available. The vaccine begins to protect 4 weeks after receiving the first dose; the 6- to 12-month booster is required for long-term protection. See: Hepatitis A vaccine
Travelers should take the following precautions:
References Return to top
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Recommended immunization schedules for children and adolescents--United States, 2008. Pediatrics. 2008 Jan;121(1):219-20.
Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons Aged 7–18 Years--United States, 2008. MMWR. October 19, 2007 / 56(41);Q1-Q4.
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, October 2007-September 2008. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Nov 20;147(10):725-9.Update Date: 9/20/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.