The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is the cause of hepatitis A, an inflammatory illness of the liver. Hepatitis A does not cause chronic liver disease as in hepatitis B and C. However, it can cause acute debilitating symptoms and, less frequently, fulminant hepatitis (rapid liver failure), which may prove fatal. Hepatitis A can be symptomatic or asymptomatic. In symptomatic cases, clinically it presents with a range of mild to severe symptoms including fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes).
HAV is more common, especially in children under 10 and during the monsoon season. The disease typically spreads via the faecal-oral route, which is when an uninfected and unvaccinated person consumes contaminated food or water. Typically, people have a taste for fried, spicy street food during the monsoon season. Since they are frequently produced using unsafe water, reused oil for frying, presented, and consumed in less than optimal locations, street foods are typically unsanitary or not very healthy for ingestion and may harm the digestive system. Additionally, the wet and humid monsoon weather is perfect for germ spawning, raising the danger of illnesses.
A substantial risk of contracting HAV exists for those who live in unsanitary environments, lack access to clean water, practise poor personal hygiene, or share a home with an infected individual. Adults may potentially contract it through substance abuse and close physical (sexual) contact with an infectious person.
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Hepatitis A is managed symptomatically since there is no specific treatment for the condition. It may take weeks or months for symptoms to subside, and recovery could be gradual. Maintaining a healthy diet with foods that are nutritionally balanced and adequate hydration and fluid balance is crucial during the recovery.
The best measures to prevent hepatitis A include getting vaccinated with the Hepatitis A vaccine, avoiding contaminated food, drinking safe water, increasing sanitation and personal hygiene, and avoiding close contact with those who are afflicted.
Dr. Rajiv Lochan, Lead Consultant – HPB and Liver Transplantation Surgery, Manipal Hospital Old Airport Road