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Hepatitis A (formerly known as infectious hepatitis) is an acute infectious disease of the liver caused by the hepatovirus hepatitis A virus. Most commonly transmitted by the fecal-oral route, such as contaminated food, hepatitis A does not typically have a chronic stage and does not cause permanent liver damage. The patient's immune system makes antibodies against the hepatitis A virus that confer immunity against future infection. Some vaccines remain effective for a lifetime, while others have to be updated after a few months or years.
Symptoms of hepatitis A may be mistaken for flu. Some sufferers, especially children, may exhibit no symptoms at all. Symptoms typically appear 2 to 6 weeks after start of infection.
Symptoms may return over the following 36 months and may include:
Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes.
Sharp pains on the lower right side of the torso (the liver)
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Sufferers are advised to rest, avoid fatty foods and alcohol (these may be poorly tolerated for some additional months during the recovery phase and cause minor relapses), eat a well-balanced diet, and stay hydrated. Approximately 15% of people diagnosed with hepatitis A may experience one or more symptomatic relapse(s) for up to 24 months after contracting this disease.
Hepatitis A can be prevented by good hygiene and sanitation. Vaccination is also available, and is recommended in areas where the prevalence of hepatitis A is high. To prevent it, use your own towels and toothbrushes, eating utensils, and other personal products. Always wash your hands after and before eating and more importantly after using the toilet.
Theiss Hepatitis A vaccine, Avaxim, protects against the virus in more than 95% of cases and provides protection from the virus for ten years. The vaccine contains inactivated Hepatitis A virus providing active immunity against a future infection.
Dr Anrich Burger
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