Road Today - - Guest Column: Health -

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.

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