Hepatitis A is a serious condition that causes inflammation of the liver along with a wide range of symptoms, including jaundice, fatigue, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Though hepatitis A does not often cause chronic liver disease like hepatitis B and C, it can still be a severe illness in some patients, and it poses unique dangers due to the long incubation period of the virus. Recently, hepatitis A has been in the news because of an outbreak traced to frozen strawberries used at a popular smoothie chain, so you may be on high alert for this virus with questions about how to protect yourself. This article will offer a closer look at what you need to know about hepatitis A to stay safe.
Be aware of outbreaks
Staying conscious of health alerts related to infected foods is an important step in hepatitis A protection. This type of hepatitis is one of the most common food-borne illnesses in the world, and it is often spread from internationally sourced foods—particularly those that originate from areas without consistent access to clean water. In the most recent outbreak of the disease, the culprit was frozen strawberries imported from Egypt. Still, it’s hard to trace the source of any outbreak, because hepatitis A can take 15-50 days to begin showing symptoms in infected individuals. Therefore, it is helpful to know where your food comes from and maintain a focus on locally-sourced non-prepackaged foods.
Use travel precautions
Any international traveler over 12 months in age should seek vaccination against hepatitis A before venturing to areas where this disease is a high risk. In addition to the vaccine itself, your doctor might recommend an immune globulin (IG) shot, which can boost your resistance by strengthening your immune system.
Practice good hygiene
Hepatitis A does not only spread through contaminated food and water. It can be spread easily from person to person, making personal hygiene integral to your protection. Following good hand-washing practices and teaching your children to do the same will be essential in reducing the spread of this and many other viruses.
Know the symptoms
As with any illness, seeking care as soon as possible is a necessity with hepatitis A. Many people will recover fully from this virus, though it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis and discuss your symptoms with your doctor to reduce complications. The most common symptoms of hepatitis A are fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, dark-colored urine, yellowing of the skin, and fatigue. Patients may experience all or just a handful of symptoms, and older adults are the most likely to experience complications. In some cases, an individual may relapse after feeling better for a short period of time, though this will usually be followed by a complete recovery.
Whether you are preparing to travel to foreign lands, or you suspect that you have symptoms of hepatitis A already, you should not wait to talk to a doctor about your care needs. To consult a medical provider anytime, anywhere, connect with MeMD from any internet-enabled device.