Happy New Year! Now that winter has arrived, many people will travel south in search of sunshine and heat. South America and the Caribbean are favorite winter destinations for Canadians. One thing to keep in mind when traveling to these regions of the world is the risk of contracting hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is a virus which causes a highly contagious liver infection. This infection in turn causes severe liver inflammation and can affect liver function.
The hepatitis A virus is usually transmitted from person to person via fecal-oral route. Essentially, a person becomes infected with the virus after eating a tiny amount of contaminated fecal matter. The spread of hepatitis A is most commonly caused by poor hygiene practices or contaminated water. The two most common ways of infection transmission are eating foods that has been handled by someone with the virus who doesn’t thoroughly wash their hands or drinking contaminated water.
The symptoms of hepatitis A usually appear a few weeks after exposure to the virus. Symptoms may include:
4Joint pain 4Fever 4Fatigue 4Right sided abdominal pain 4Nausea 4Dark urine 4Jaundice 4Clay- colored stool
It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have hepatitis A. Your doctor will be able to detect the presence of the hepatitis virus by taking a simple blood test. The good news is that most people who are infected with this virus fully recover with no permanent liver damage. In general, mild cases of hepatitis A do not require any form of treatment and resolves on its own with in a few weeks. More severe causes may last several months. At this time, there is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Treatment generally consists of rest and symptom control. Medications that help to reduce pain and nausea may be prescribed. In addition, it is important to rest the liver by not drinking alcohol and minimizing the amount of medication taking. It is a good idea to review your medications with your pharmacist if you have hepatitis A as some medications are very hard on the liver.