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Understanding What Causes Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection that is caused by the Hepatitis A virus. Its severity can range from a mild to severe illness which can last from few weeks to months.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally more than ten crore people get infected with Hepatitis A every year. While this liver infection is generally considered mild and common among children, it can be serious in some cases. Among older children and adults, infection usually causes more severe symptoms, jaundice being one of them occurring in more than 70% of cases.
Hepatitis A infections do not cause chronic infections, however, they can be severe. If left unchecked, in some cases, it can lead to severe complications like acute liver failure and death in rare cases. Outbreaks occur worldwide, especially in areas with poor sanitation. This is why children, who are not previously exposed to this virus because of living in more hygienic urban areas, may evade Hepatitis A infection in early childhood leaving them at risk of severe infection in adolescence and adulthood.
How Does It Spread?
Hepatitis A spreads through ingestion of water and food contaminated with the Hepatitis A virus. It is primarily transmitted from person to person by the fecal-oral route or when someone ingests contaminated water, milk, or even foods that have not been prepared, stored, or served in a hygienic manner.
You are at risk of contracting Hepatitis A if you accidentally ingest something contaminated with Hepatitis A, like changing an infected child’s diaper and not washing your hands thoroughly after. You are even at risk if you share food and drinks at a restaurant or touch a doorknob or surface that might have some undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.
Watch Out for These Signs and Symptoms
Not everyone who is infected has symptoms. Symptoms (if developed) usually appear within two to six weeks after infection. They can include:
- Grey-coloured stools
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
Remember, not everyone who is infected will show all the symptoms. In few cases, symptoms can last for as long as six months.
Hepatitis A – Can It Be Prevented?
Yes, Hepatitis A infection can be prevented. The easiest ways to protect yourself are to:
- Drink clean water and cook food well. Avoid raw meat and shellfish and wash fruits and vegetables in clean water.
- Remember to wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, changing a baby’s nappy, and before preparing food and eating.
- Ensure hygienic surroundings in and around your home.
- Vaccination helps to protect your child against Hepatitis A.
Treatment for Hepatitis A
There is no specific treatment for Hepatitis A hence it is wise to prevent the disease by taking preventive measures. Vaccination is a reliable way to prevent Hepatitis A.
When the Hepatitis A Vaccination Can Be Given
Vaccination against Hepatitis A can be given to children aged one year and above. This is why global and national health authorities like WHO and the Indian Academy of Pediatrics recommend Hepatitis A vaccination to all eligible children. Consult your Paediatrician for more information.
Disclaimer: Issued in public interest by GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Limited. Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai 400 030, India. Information appearing in this material is for general awareness only. Nothing contained in this material constitutes medical advice. Please consult your physician for medical queries, if any, or any question or concern you may have regarding your condition. Please consult your Paediatrician for the complete list of Vaccine-preventable diseases and the complete vaccination schedule for each disease. Please report adverse events with any GSK product to the company at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CL code: NP-IN-HEPATITIS A-OGM-210001, DoP Jul 2021