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What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A virus (HAV or hep A) is one of three types of viral hepatitis, a contagious infection of the liver. The other types are hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Hepatitis A spreads via contact with food, water and other people who have been infected. It is not an airborne virus so you cannot get it from the hug, sneeze or cough of an infected person.
People at higher risk of infection include those traveling to countries where there is lack of clean food and water. The virus is also more common among people who work in day care settings (where diapers are handled) as well as in men who have sex with men, and in people who inject illegal drugs.
You can also be infected with hepatitis A by eating contaminated raw fruits and vegetables, raw shellfish and undercooked food.
Symptoms of hepatitis A
In some cases, a person may not even know of the infection. If there are symptoms, these may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
Diagnosis and testing of hepatitis A
A blood test can reveal if you have a hepatitis A infection, but there is no particular treatment and the condition will generally resolve on its own. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A does not cause long-term liver damage.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated and also practice good hygiene by washing hands after using the bathroom. Also be mindful of hand washing when handling food or diapers.