What is Hepatitis A, transmission, symptoms, vaccine, has a cure?

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A, also known as yellowing or infectious hepatitis, is a contagious inflammation that affects the liver and is caused by a virus that is usually benign. Usually, the disease progresses to spontaneous healing in more than 90% of cases.

It is believed that 75% of Brazilians have already come into contact with the virus and almost 60% of affected patients are children under 10 years of age. In Brazil, the location that most suffers from hepatitis A is the northern region.

Several cases do not have or present few of the known symptoms of hepatitis A, especially when the youngest are affected. In most cases, the disease is transmitted by drinking water or eating food contaminated with feces infected by the virus.

Cause and Transmission of Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused by the VHA virus, an acute infectious agent that is transmitted orally or faecally. It is known that the virus can survive up to 4 hours on the skin of the hands and fingers and is extremely resistant to degradation caused by environmental changes, which facilitates its spread.

Although the disease is caused only by the virus, there are factors that facilitate the development of the disease, such as alcohol, infectious agents, drugs and autoimmune diseases .

Transmission can be done through:

  • Infected foods, such as raw or vegetable foods that have not been washed well;
  • Take contaminated water;
  • Eat shellfish and raw seafood from contaminated water;
  • Having sex with infected people.

Risk factors

There are some factors that cause the patient more risk of developing the disease:

  • Eat raw or undercooked, roasted or fried seafood;
  • Drink unfiltered water;
  • Participate in child care or work in a child care center;
  • Living with people who have hepatitis A;
  • Travel to regions without basic sanitation;
  • Use injected or unlawful drugs;
  • Work or travel in regions with high rates of hepatitis A;
  • Having a blood clotting disorder, such as hemophilia;
  • Have oral and / or anal contact with people who have hepatitis A;
  • Being HIV positive with compromised immune system.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

Symptoms usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after contact with the hepatitis A virus and can be confused with flu or mild gastroenteritis .

The main symptoms that can be confused with those of the flu are:

  • Fatigue;
  • Low fever;
  • Mild headache;
  • Joint pain;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Feeling sick;
  • Patients who smoke may lose the taste of tobacco during this time.

After these first symptoms appear, others, related to the liver, may occur, such as:

  • Jaundice;
  • Itch;
  • Darkening of urine;
  • Pale stools.

Uncommon symptoms are characterized as:

  • Rash;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Persistent joint pain;
  • Swelling in the liver.

In two months, recovery is usually complete. Once affected by the disease, you become immune to it and no longer catch the virus.

Hepatitis A has a cure?

Hepatitis lasts an average of 2 months and, unlike hepatitis C , which tends to become chronic in most infected people, hepatitis A usually heals on its own and it is rare to become chronic. In 85% of cases, the cure appears within 2 weeks of treatment.

Is it possible to be affected twice by hepatitis A?

No. Once infected with the disease, the body becomes immune to the disease for the rest of its life. But as there are other types of hepatitis, the patient may suffer from some other, but type A, he is free.

Diagnosis

If symptoms similar to that of hepatitis A appear, it is important to make an appointment with the hepatologist so that the disease is ruled out or treated, so that there is a cure. It is also important to go to the doctor if:

  • Someone close to you is diagnosed with the disease;
  • You have had recent sexual contact with a person with hepatitis A;
  • The restaurant where you were recently reported an outbreak of hepatitis A.

For the diagnosis to be given more quickly, going with some answers is essential:

  • What were the frequent symptoms?
  • How severe are the symptoms?
  • When did the symptoms start?
  • Are you a carrier of the HIV virus?
  • Have you been infected with the disease before?

Liver function test (blood test)

After the clinical analysis, a blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory for analysis, so that the doctor can detect the presence of the hepatitis A virus in the patient’s body.

When performing the exam, the main finding is the alteration of liver enzymes: TGO, TGP and bilirubins. In cases of acute hepatitis, the values ​​of TGO and TGP usually reach more than 1000IU / dL.

If the agent that causes hepatitis is the HAV virus, a serology for hepatitis A must be performed. In serology, two types of antibodies are sought: IgM and IgG. The IgM antibody indicates active hepatitis A, when symptoms still appear and can remain for 6 months. The IgG antibody, on the other hand, indicates old infection and is positive after a few weeks of infection and, thus, remains for the rest of life.

There are 3 possibilities of infection:

  • HAV IgG positive and IgM positive: active infection and on the way to cure.
  • HAV IgG positive and IgM negative: old and cured infection.
  • HAV IgG negative and IgM positive: active infection at the onset of the condition.

Ultrasound

High frequency sound waves are used to build an image of the inside of your liver.

Liver biopsy

A small sample of liver tissue is removed and checked for any problems.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment available for hepatitis A and the body takes care of getting rid of the virus on its own. In most cases, the liver heals completely in a month or two, without permanent damage.

Although there is no treatment, there are ways to speed recovery, which consist in the management of symptoms caused by the disease.

Take a rest

The fatigue is a major symptom of those affected with hepatitis A. It is therefore important to rest for everyday tasks able to be performed. Despite the importance, absolute rest is not necessary.

Phytotherapy

Using medicinal plants aims to reduce the symptoms of the disease. The most used plants are: boldo, lemon and Sylibum marianum.

Control nausea

To control nausea, one of the most recommended methods is to make small snacks throughout the day and not just three reinforced meals. Always keeping your stomach full can reduce nausea.

Alcohol

Alcohol intake should be avoided, since the liver is the organ most affected by hepatitis A. Medication control must also occur, so that the liver is not affected.

Attention! 

NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Complications

After the disease is diagnosed, symptoms usually disappear quickly if recommended care is taken. In some cases, the functioning of the liver may suddenly be lost. Elderly patients or those with a chronic disease are more at risk of having this complication.

When liver failure occurs, the patient needs to be admitted to the hospital for medical follow-up. In more severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary.

The recovery of about 99% of cases happens after rest and the correct treatment. Only in 1% of cases is there a risk of death in patients with hepatitis A and this usually only occurs in cases of fulminant hepatitis.

Complications are believed to occur only in people who already have liver problems. In cases of liver failure, treatment can be done with medications. But, in more serious cases, transplantation may be the best option to cure the liver problem.

How to live with the problem?

In order to reduce the risk of contamination of the disease, some measures can be taken, such as:

Do not cook

Staying away during this period is essential so that there is no contagion when touching food.

Avoid sexual contact

Although hepatitis is not a sexually transmitted disease, in cases of anal intercourse, remains of fecal material can be found. If there is no protection, contamination may occur.

Sanitation

The hand is the greatest form of contagion of diseases. Therefore, keeping it well sanitized is the best way to keep yourself safe and away from infectious diseases.

Prevention

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated and keep up to date. If someone is exposed to the virus, immunoglobulin A can be used to prevent the disease.

Improving hygiene conditions is the best way to avoid illness, here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands before preparing food;
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom;
  • Wash food that will be eaten raw;
  • Cook pork, seafood and seafood well;
  • Do not bathe or play near streams, floods, fountains and etc;
  • Avoid the construction of ditches close to river springs, so that the water table that feeds the well is not compromised.

Hepatitis A vaccine

The hepatitis vaccine is indicated for children from 1 year of age, but it can also be applied to adults. Professionals who work with food can be recommended to get vaccinated due to the great risk of contamination through food.

There are two types of vaccines against hepatitis A. One of them should be applied in 2 doses with an interval of 6 months, and the other, in 3 doses also distributed over 6 months.

The vaccine should not be administered during pregnancy and in people who are hypersensitive to the components of the vaccine. The Ministry of Health started offering it to children between 1 and 2 years old.

Follow safe precautions when traveling

If you are traveling to locations with outbreaks of hepatitis A, consider these tips:

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables from unit to unit.
  • Do not eat raw meat and fish.
  • Boiling tap water before drinking is a good option to kill the virus that causes the disease.

Share this text with your colleagues, family and friends so that more people have access to information and are no longer at risk of contracting the disease.

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