What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is an infectious virus which causes inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A is contracted by the ingesting faecal matter from someone who has the disease, infection is typically contracted via contaminated food or water.  Whilst it is rarely life threatening, the Hepatitis A virus can be particularly nasty especially if underlining health conditions are present.

The virus is prevalent in many countries worldwide, especially in developing and third world nations, where hygiene and sanitation are poor.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Symptoms include:

- Headache

-  Cough

-  Sore throat

-  Fever

-  Pain in the upper right side of the stomach

-  Nausea and vomiting

- Joint and muscle pain

-  Constipation or diarrhoea

Initially it takes, on average, a month for Hepatitis A symptoms to develop.  Once these initial symptoms develop, some can progress into more serious symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and eyes (Jaundice), dark urine, itchy skin and a rash. In severe cases Hepatitis A can cause liver failure and a liver transplant may be needed. Hepatitis A can be diagnosed promptly by a blood test carried out by your GP.

Treatments for Hepatitis A

Currently there is no cure for Hepatitis A and treatment is typically focused around managing the patients symptoms.  If you are displaying any of the symptoms above please do seek medical advice. Taking Paracetamol can help to reduce the fever and help with achy muscles. Anti-histamines may also help to reduce itchiness.  Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and eat small, light meals, it is advisable to avoid consuming alcohol as this will place additional strain on your liver. Be sure to get plenty of rest to allow your body time to recuperate.

How to protect Yourself Against Hepatitis A

One of the best ways to avoid contracting Hepatitis A is to practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and thoroughly.  As Hepatitis A is often contracted unknowingly via contaminated food and water, it is important to take precautions by ensuring that your food is cooked thoroughly and any water consumed is fully sterilised. Avoid cold foods that could potentially have been washed in contaminated water and avoid asking for ice in drinks, as tempting as it can be in hot countries.

The Hepatitis A Vaccine

The Hepatitis A vaccination is highly effective and is recommended for those visiting many developing countries worldwide.  For best effectiveness you should ensure that you have the vaccination at least 2 weeks prior to travel.  The first vaccine dose will provide adequate protection against the Hepatitis A virus for up to one year. However, do consider a booster dose 6 - 12 months after the first dose to ensure the best level of protection that will last up to 25 years.

Here at London Travel Clinic we offer the Hepatitis A vaccine on its own or as in combination with other vaccines, more detailed information can be found here or book any appointment for a personal consultation with one of our experienced travel health professionals.

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