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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an infectious illness which can be food or water borne. Symptoms include fever, headache and nausea, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and jaundice. These symptoms can last for 3 weeks.

Causes

It is caused by the Hepatitis A virus entering the body either through the mouth, usually from unwashed hands. It is also caused by infected food and drink or through cuts and broken skin.

Possible routes of the infection are:

  • eating fruit and vegetables contaminated with soil
  • using contaminated needles to inject drugs
  • contact with streams or ponds
  • drinking water contaminated with sewage
  • eating shellfish taken from contaminated waters

How it is spread

Hepatitis A can be spread from person to person. If an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the toilet their hands may be contaminated with the virus. They can then pass the infection on, either by direct contact with other people or else indirectly, for example by preparing food that someone else then eats.

Precautions

  • wash hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, before preparing or serving food or drink and after handling raw meat and vegetables
  • avoid swallowing water when participating in water sports
  • people in close contact with someone suffering from Hepatitis A should seek medical advice as vaccination may be appropriate
  • only drink mains or treated water. Make sure that the water tank in your loft is covered to stop birds getting in
  • when abroad it may be safer to use bottled water
  • always wash fruit and vegetables. When abroad it may be safer to use bottled water to do this
  • take care when changing the nappies of infected babies
  • people suffering from Hepatitis A should be given their own towel and flannel to use
  • intravenous drug users should always use sterile needles
  • hepatitis A can be contracted abroad, especially in areas where there is poor sanitation and hygiene
  • if you intend travelling to a country where Hepatitis A is common, talk to your doctor about having an injection before you go. Such injections can help to protect you for up to 12 months

Treatment

You should seek medical advice from your doctor about treatment.

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