1.6 Hepatitis A

'Hepar' is Greek for liver. "The addition 'itis' means infection. Hepatitis, therefore, is an infection of the liver. There are different types of hepatitis. Hepatitis A is the most harmless variety but is very contagious. Each year, over 10 million people world-wide are infected with the hepatitis A virus.

Does one always get sick, when infected? No.

How long is the incubation period?

After initial infection, it normally takes two to six weeks before one gets sick.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms can vary from fatigue, fever, muscle- and joint pains to nausea and abdominal pains. The illness can also produce colour changes in eyes, skin, urine, (tea colour) and faeces (pale colour).

Is hepatitis A curable?

Yes, but not with medicine. After a few months, hepatitis A disappears by itself. If someone has been sick with hepatitis A once, he/she is immune for the rest of his/her life.

How can catching hepatitis A be prevented? The golden rule is, good personal hygiene. Handwashing after visits to the toilet and before eating or preparing food. There are also shots against hepatitis A. A safe and effective vaccine against hepatitis A has been available for many years.

How do we become infected?

Through contaminated food and water. The dazzling blue ocean water near a fivestar hotel could be contaminated due to an open sewer nearby. The exquisite dinner in the same hotel could be contaminated because the cook has not washed his hands after a visit to the toilet.
The virus can also be transmitted throug sexual contact, namely oral anal sex. During licking of the anus, little particles of faeces could get into the mouth.

Risk factors
* Sharing unhygienic sanitary facilities
* Oral anal sex