When food or water comes in contact with stool of a person who has Hepatitis A, the person eating that food or drinking the water can get the disease. It is highly contagious, so minimal contact can cause Hepatitis A. Groups of people eating at the same establishment can get the disease as well as employees coming in contact with the food or water who fails to wash their hands thoroughly. It is also commonly spread in day care centers if children touch their diapers and put their fingers in their mouths. The daycare operators can also get it if they dont wash their hands properly. You can also get Hepatitis A by coming in contact with the blood of an infected person, though this is less common. It can also be passed through sexual activity. Risk factors for Hepatitis A include traveling to countries where it is common like Central America or Asia, using illicit drugs with an IV, living in a rehabilitation center or nursing home, having unprotected sex, or working in the food, sewage or health care industries.
It can take about 2-6 weeks to begin experiencing symptoms of Hepatitis A. They often start mild and gradually build up and become more severe. This could occur over several months in some cases. Common symptoms of Hepatitis A include fatigue, itching, dark-colored urine, a low fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, pale stools, abdominal pain, muscle pain, and jaundice (yellow on the skin or eyes). Children six or younger who have Hepatitis A very rarely show any symptoms; some adults may never show symptoms if they only have a mild case of the disease. If you show any of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor immediately and get tested for the disease. This is especially true if you meet risk factors such as working in the restaurant industry or recently traveled to another country. If it has been two weeks or less since you got the disease, you can still get a vaccine. To diagnose Hepatitis A, your doctor will perform a blood test to look for the Hepatitis A virus. This blood test will look for high levels of liver enzymes and antibodies.
If you suspect you have contracted Hepatitis A, see a doctor immediately. There isnt a single course of treatment that is used for all individuals who contract Hepatitis A. For many, the body simply rids itself of the disease. In most mild to moderate cases, your liver will heal within 2 months of getting the virus.
Treatment for Hepatitis A is usually to treat the other symptoms youre experiencing such as improving your lack of energy, improving your appetite, letting your liver rest, coping with the nausea and vomiting and being sure you avoid contact with others so you dont pass the virus to them. This includes avoiding sexual activity, not preparing food or working with others in the healthcare field until the virus is gone and always washing your hands after using the restroom.
To prevent Hepatitis A, the best course of action aside from washing your hands and being careful with whom you have contact with, is with the Hepatitis A vaccine. There are complications associated with Hepatitis A like acute liver failure, so you should get medical treatment as soon as you suspect you might have contracted the virus.