Similar to Hepatitis B and C, Hepatitis A also affects the liver, causing inflammation. However, unlike Hepatitis B and C, Hepatitis A does not become chronic and is instead an acute infection – meaning its onset is abrupt and typically requires short-term care.
If you are interested in learning more about Hepatitis B or C, read Dr. Ali Ghahary’s articles titled ‘Information on Hepatitis B (HBV)’ and ‘Contracting Hepatitis C’, which can be found on Wordpress at http://alighahary.wordpress.com and on Weebly at http://alighahary.weebly.com
Hepatitis A is contracted through feces, and is commonly found in regions such as The Caribbean and South America. While outbreaks of Hepatitis A are uncommon in Canada, they can still occur. These outbreaks are often the result of having sexual contact with someone who is already infected with the Hepatitis A virus, or by eating contaminated food that has been prepared by someone with Hepatitis A who has not washed their hands prior. Eating raw or undercooked seafood that has been in sewage-polluted water can also result in the contraction of Hepatitis A.
While most individuals with Hepatitis A will develop symptoms, not everyone does. Symptoms can occur as little as one-week from the initial contact with the virus, or as long as 50 days later. Symptoms of Hepatitis A include: Abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, low-grade fever, loss of appetite, dark urine and jaundice. Typically, children who have been infected with Hepatitis A will experience milder symptoms. However, the older you are, the more severe your symptoms may be. Symptoms can last as little as 1 to 2 weeks or for several months. If you have pre-existing conditions such as chronic liver disease, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, you are at a higher risk of developing complications from Hepatitis A.
The best way to avoid contracting Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. The vaccine is usually given in 2 doses 6 months apart, and it will protect you from the virus for up to 20 years. Alternatively, a combined Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccine is also available and is something that Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary recommend, especially for individuals who have not yet been vaccinated.