What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A (formerly called infectious hepatitis) is an acute infectious disease of the liver. It is caused by the hepatitis A virus, which is most commonly transmitted by the fecal-oral route through contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A does not have a chronic stage and is not progressive. It does not cause permanent liver damage.
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis A
Early symptoms of hepatitis A infection can be mistaken for influenza. However, some sufferers, especially children, exhibit no symptoms at all. Symptoms typically appear two to six weeks (the incubation period) after the initial infection. Symptoms can return over the following six to nine months.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A include:
- Abdominal pain
- Appetite loss
- Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes
- Sharp pain in the right-upper quadrant of the abdomen
- Weight loss
Although HAV is excreted in the feces towards the end of the incubation period, it is detectable from one to two weeks after the initial infection. It persists for up to 14 weeks. The presence of IgG (antibody molecules) in the blood means that the acute stage of the illness is past and the person is immune to further infection.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Sufferers are advised to rest, avoid fatty food, and alcohol. They are advised to eat a well-balanced diet, and stay hydrated. Approximately 6 to 10% of people diagnosed with hepatitis A may experience one or more symptomatic relapse(s) for up to 40 weeks after contracting this disease.
The top five symptoms of hepatitis are:
- Pain in the liver area: On the right side of the abdomen, under the rib cage
- Urinating less frequently, with urine of a dark brown color
- Jaundice: A yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes
- Rapid heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms usually last less than two months, although they may sometimes last for as long as nine months.
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