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Dr. Andrew Rynne
MD
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Adult and Senior Health Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A

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Hepatitis A, one of the oldest diseases known to humankind, is a self-limited disease. However, it is a significant cause of morbidity and socio-economic losses in many parts of the world. Transmission of HAV is typically by the fecal-oral route,

Infections occur early in life in areas where sanitation is poor and living conditions are crowded.


With improved sanitation and hygiene, infections are delayed and consequently the number of persons susceptible to the disease increases.


Under these conditions explosive epidemics can arise from fecal contamination of a single source.

 

What causes the disease?

  • Hepatitis A is caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus (HAV)
  • The virus interferes with the liver's functions while replicating in hepatocytes
  • The individual's immune system is then activated to produce a specific reaction to combat and possibly eradicate the infectious agent
  • As a consequence of pathological damage, the liver becomes inflamed


How is HAV spread?

  • HAV is transmitted from person-to-person via the fecal-oral route
  • As HAV is abundantly excreted in faces, and can survive in the environment for prolonged periods of time, it is typically acquired by ingestion of faces-contaminated food or water
  • Direct person-to-person spread is common under poor hygienic conditions


Who is susceptible to infection?

  • People who have never contracted HAV and who are not vaccinated against hepatitis A, are at risk of infection
  • The risk factors for HAV infection are related to resistance of HAV to the environment, poor sanitation in large areas of the world, and abundant HAV shedding in faces
  • In areas where HAV is highly endemic, most HAV infections occur during early childhood


When is hepatitis- A contagious?

Although the level of virus shedding does not correlate with the severity of liver disease, feces are highly infectious and therefore extremely contagious during all of this period.


Why is there no treatment for the acute disease?

Hepatitis A is a viral disease, and as such, antibiotics are of no value in the treatment.

Complete recovery without therapy is generally the rule.