Hepatitis A (HAV) is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus primarily transmitted through the fecal-oral route. Thus, it is present in poverty-stricken countries where clean water and food may not be available.
Outbreaks of hepatitis A often occur due to fecal contamination of food or drinking water. Contributing factors include improper handling of food, poor sanitary and hygiene conditions, as well as crowded conditions.
The incubation period for hepatitis A is a range between 15-50 days, with an average of 28 days (4 weeks). The greatest risk of transmission occurs around 2 weeks before the onset of symptoms, with patients being infectious until 1-2 weeks after the start of symptoms.
Manifestations of hepatitis A often resemble flu-like symptoms and often don’t appear until the individual has had the virus for a couple weeks. A low-grade fever may be present.
The individual may experience general malaise or a generalized feeling of discomfort. Nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and loss of appetite are common complaints.
Symptoms of hepatitis A are rarely severe unless there is underlying liver failure. Some patients may experience hepatomegaly or swelling of the liver beyond normal.
Hepatitis A is a self-limiting infection meaning that it usually resolves itself without treatment. It is often detected by the presence of antibodies to hepatitis A virus.
Proper hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis A. This is especially important for food handlers.
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