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Hepatitis A Facts, Transmission and Symptoms

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is one of a group of viruses which can cause infection and inflammation of the liver in severe cases. There are many cases of HAV infection, possibly a hundred thousand new cases in the United States alone, but most never produce any serious medical complications. Fatalities from HAV, while possible, are quite rare.

How is hepatitis A transmitted?

Transmission of HAV is usually caused by the ingestion of fecal material containing the virus. This often occurs when infected food handlers fail to wash their hands after using the bathroom. Fecal matter on the hands can transmit the virus by prepared food, and outbreaks can occur among large numbers of people eating in restaurants or during social events. HAV infection has occasionally been linked to oral-anal sexual activities as well.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

Symptoms include general viral symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea and sore throat, but unusual symptoms such as jaundice or yellowing of the eyes and skin and production of dark urine can occur. On the other hand many infected people have no obvious symptoms at all.

Can hepatitis A be treated or cured?

HAV is not treated with specific medications. Apart from a few rare cases, most people remit from their symptoms with rest and fluids after a few weeks or, rarely, a few months. A vaccination can be effective in preventing HAV, and this is recommended for persons traveling in areas of high HAV prevalence.


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