Continuing our look at different strains of Hepatitis as part of World Hepatitis Day (WHD), it’s important to raise awareness of the effects that Hepatitis A can have on those afflicted.
Hepatitis A shares similar symptoms to the other strains of Hepatitis, but is usually a short-term infection that does not become chronic.
Hepatitis A is considered uncommon in the UK, but there are still risks for certain groups of people. This blog will focus on how this virus spreads, its symptoms and the ways to prevent its transmission.
The causes and risks
Hepatitis A manifests as a liver infection, triggered by a virus that can be spread in the faeces of an infected person. This condition is more prevalent in parts of the world where the standards of sanitation and good hygiene are substandard, including but not limited to, parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.1
The infection can be caught in a variety of ways. While most reported cases of Hepatitis A occur after travelling to countries where it is more prevalent,2 it may also be spread by eating food prepared by someone with the infection and whose hand hygiene is poor, drinking contaminated water, being in close contact with someone who has the virus or eating raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated water.
Although more uncommon, Hepatitis A can also be caught through sex with someone who has the virus, or through injecting drugs using contaminated equipment.
Hepatitis A can trigger a host of unpleasant symptoms, including feelings of fatigue, joint and muscle pain, a high temperature, loss of appetite, feeling unwell, dark urine and pale faeces.3 These symptoms usually develop around four weeks after becoming infected; some individuals may not experience any symptoms at all.
Thankfully, more severe symptoms, such as liver failure, are rare, and affect less than 1 in every 250 people with the virus.4
There is no cure for Hepatitis A; fortunately, it generally gets better on its own and usually within a few months.i Self-care advice for those affected includes resting, taking painkillers (following advice from your GP), eating small meals to reduce nausea and sickness, avoiding alcohol and abstaining from sex until around a week after the symptoms started.
Most people find that after two months the symptoms begin to subside, though some people can be ill, on and off, for as long as six months.5 Those who have had the virus and recover normally develop life-long immunity against it as a result.
Protecting yourself against Hepatitis A
The vaccination for this strain of Hepatitis is not commonly offered in the UK, as the risk for infection is quite low for the majority of people.
However, it is recommended for those at an increased risk, including people who may be exposed to the virus through their job (such as sewage workers and people who work with monkeys, apes and gorillas, for example), those with long-term liver disease or those who are planning to travel to places where the virus is more common.
Practising good hygiene is an efficient way to protect yourself from a variety of viruses, including Hepatitis A. Whether it’s after using the washroom, changing nappies or before preparing food, washing your hands with warm water and soap is a simple and cost-effective way to protect yourself and others from harm.
Things to consider
While Hepatitis A currently remains uncommon in the UK, there are still many countries where the virus is rampant. Individuals in these areas may not have access to a vaccine or medical guidance, which can make navigating the virus all the more challenging.
Awareness is crucial to the education and action regarding Hepatitis A. If you’d like to get involved with World Hepatitis Day, visit the website HERE to find out more.
1 NHS Choices (2019). Overview – Hepatitis A. [online] NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis-a/ [Accessed 9 May 2022].
2 British Liver Trust. (n.d.). Hepatitis A. [online] Available at: https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/information-and-support/living-with-a-liver-condition/liver-conditions/hepatitis-a/ [Accessed 9 May 2022].
3 NHS Choices (2019). Overview – Hepatitis A. [online] NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis-a/ [Accessed 9 May 2022].
4 NHS Choices (2019). Overview – Hepatitis A. [online] NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis-a/ [Accessed 9 May 2022].
5 CDC (2021). Hepatitis A FAQs | CDC. [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at:
https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#:~:text=If%20symptoms%20develop%2C%20they%20usually [Accessed 9 May 2022].