Hepatitis is a generic term for inflammation of the liver. This can be due to viral infection, exposure to toxic substances, alcohol, certain medications, or immune system disorder. Hepatitis A is a liver inflammation caused by infection with the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). In Singapore, the majority of the reported Hepatitis A cases had past histories of consuming contaminated food from raw or partially cooked cockles.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes the liver to become enlarged, inflamed and tender. There is no chronic (long-term) infection. The virus is excreted in faeces and transmitted through contaminated food and water. Eating shellfish taken from sewage-contaminated water is a common means of contracting Hepatitis A. It can also be acquired by close contact with individuals infected with the virus.
A person is infectious for 2-3 weeks before he or she experiences symptoms and during the first week of illness.
Causes & risk factors
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that belongs to the Picornavirus which is non-enveloped and contains a single-stranded RNA.
Hepatitis A virus infections often occur in conditions of poor sanitation and overcrowding. Outbreaks of HAV have resulted from those infected food handlers who failed to wash their hands after going to the toilet. There were also reported cases of contracting HAV from sexual contact and drug use with infected persons.
Signs & symptoms
There is no specific medication for Hepatitis A virus infection. People often recover after 2 weeks with bed rest and medications to relieve symptoms.
Take the following measures to help you feel better and improve you condition:
Hepatitis A vaccination is the best protection. Immune globulin can be given for short-term protection. It is given before and within 2 weeks after coming in contact with Hepatitis A virus. The vaccine is recommended for those travelling to developing countries, sexually active homosexual men and people with chronic liver disease.
Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, before preparing and eating food.
Text taken from Singapore Health Promotion Board
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