Hepatitis A is a highly contagious, liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can infect liver cells and cause mild to severe illness.
Let’s check out the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Hepatitis A and find out where to seek treatment and vaccine for hepatitis A in Austin, Texas.
Q: How Is Hepatitis A Spread?
Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can be spread before the infected person experiences signs or symptoms. Contamination of food and water tends to happen more in countries where hepatitis A is common, such as developing countries with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water.
Hepatitis A is spread in different ways, such as the following:
- Eating food handled by an infected person who hasn’t washed their hands thoroughly after using the toilet. (Food can be contaminated at any stage, such as during the growing, harvesting, processing, handling stage, and in some cases, even after cooking).
- Drinking contaminated water
- Eating raw shellfish from contaminated water
- Having close contact with an infected person
Q: Is Hepatitis A Serious?
Unlike the other types of hepatitis, hepatitis A is a benign, self-limiting disease and therefore doesn’t cause permanent liver damage. That is to say, the majority of people who get hepatitis A can feel sick for a few weeks, and up to several months in more severe cases, but typically recover completely without any long-term damage.
In rare cases, and usually in older people or in those with other serious health issues such as chronic liver disease, the infection can cause a sudden loss of liver function. This will require hospital treatment because if left untreated it can lead to liver failure and even death.
Q: What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?
Not everyone develops obvious symptoms, but they can still spread the virus and symptoms don’t always occur initially. It can take a few weeks develop signs and symptoms which can include:
- Abdominal pain/discomfort, particularly on the upper right side by your lower ribs (near your liver)
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
- Light or gray-colored stools
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Sudden nausea/vomiting
- Upset stomach
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
Q: How is Hepatitis A Diagnosed?
Blood tests are used to detect the presence of the hepatitis A virus in your body.
If you are experiencing signs or symptoms, suspect you have the infection, or have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with the virus, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.
If you have recently been in contact with someone with the virus, the hepatitis A vaccine may protect you from the infection if you receive it within two weeks of exposure.
Q: What Is the Treatment for Hepatitis A?
Normally, no specific treatment is required for Hepatitis A. Symptoms can usually be treated with rest, suitable nutrition, and fluid intake. Alcohol along with certain medications should be avoided.
Q: How Can I Prevent Hepatitis A?
The best way to protect yourself against hepatitis A is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. Depending on which vaccine you are given, more than one shot is usually required. Your first shot is followed by a booster shot approx. 6 months later.
You should also follow safety precautions when traveling to parts of the world where hepatitis A outbreaks occur. Safety recommendations typically include practicing good hand hygiene and avoiding:
- Raw or undercooked fish and meat
- Fresh fruit and vegetables that you have not peeled or washed yourself
- Ice in drinks and beverages of unknown purity
Q: Who Should Get a Hepatitis A Vaccine?
The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for children aged 12 to 23 months, children aged 2 to 18 years that have not previously received the vaccine, and those at increased risk of hepatitis A. If you are unsure about your risk for hepatitis A and whether you should be vaccinated, discuss it with your doctor.
Q: Am I at Risk for Hepatitis A?
Although anyone can get the infection, some people are deemed at higher risk of getting infected, including:
- International travelers to countries where hepatitis A is more common
- Those in direct contact with others who have the virus, such as caregivers
- Men who have sex with men
- People who use or inject illicit drugs
- People experiencing homelessness
- Those in occupations with increased exposure risks
- People anticipating close contact with an international adoptee
Also, people with chronic liver disease (including hepatitis B and C) and HIV are at increased risk of severe diseases associated with hepatitis A infection.
Hepatitis Treatment and Vaccine in Austin, TX
At Austin Gastroenterology (AG), we specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of gastrointestinal diseases and liver disorders, such as hepatitis. Our experienced and board-certified gastroenterologists are committed to providing all of our patients with the best healthcare solutions for all their digestive system needs. We also offer other services including hepatitis A and B vaccinations.
If you would like to find out more about the services we provide or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists, you can call us at the location most convenient to you, or alternatively, you can use our online appointment request form.