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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness. Most people make a full recovery from hepatitis A, and develop lifelong immunity after infection. However, the virus can cause debilitating symptoms, and a small proportion of people who contract hepatitis A could die from fulminant hepatitis. Hepatitis A epidemics can be prolonged and can have significant economic and societal consequences.

How is hepatitis A transmitted?

In low-and middle-income countries, hepatitis A is spread mainly through eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. It can also be spread by eating raw shellfish that have come from water contaminated by sewage. Infection rates are lower in high-income countries with good sanitary and hygienic conditions, but outbreaks of hepatitis A may occur among men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and homeless people.

Preventing hepatitis A

There is a safe and effective vaccine for hepatitis A. The risk of exposure can also be reduced with a safe water supply and improved sanitation. You can reduce your risk of exposure by washing your hands and avoiding drinking water or eating food that has come from a potentially unsafe source.

Treating hepatitis A

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. As the hepatitis A virus only causes acute hepatitis, the body is usually able to clear the infection itself within a few weeks, but in some cases recovery may take several weeks or months.

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