By: William Van Deventer
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver contracted through ingesting infected matter, or through direct contact with an infected person. After ingesting Hepatitis A, the virus enters the bloodstream through the intestine to its target, the liver. Once inside the liver, the virus replicates itself within liver macro-phages in order to spread to the rest of the body. The majority of people infected with Hepatitis A are in third world countries, or in countries with poor sanitation and / or water filtration. The most common locations to contract this virus are Mexico, South America, and areas of Africa. The symptoms of Hepatitis A include fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, jaundice. Most permanent damage as a result of Hepatitis A is caused by an increase in symptom severity. There is no actual cure for Hepatitis A, you can however manage your symptoms to lower discomfort and assist your body fight off the virus. Preventing infection can be done in many ways including: vaccination, good hygiene, and proper sanitation / waste disposal.
The main organ infected by Hepatitis A is the liver, which is used as a host for the virus to replicate. The virus may cause local infections of the intestinal epithelium, which can cause more damage to the body. The virus is transmitted orally, through fecal matter, through blood, or sexual contact with an infected person. "The virus is resistant to detergent, acid (pH 1), solvents (e.g., ether, chloroform), drying, and temperatures up to 60 °C. It can survive for months in fresh and salt water." (Wikipedia, 2016)
The virus primarily attacks citizens living in third world countries due to poor sanitation and improper water treatment. As the income of countries rise, the cases of Hepatitis A (HAV) decrease significantly. The main way the virus is spread in advanced nations is through direct contact with infected individuals. Professions that require travel to third world countries such as foreign aid workers and / or soldiers tend to contract the virus more frequently.
The Hepatitis A virus causes symptoms of fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and jaundice, and more severe cases of these symptoms can lead to permanent damage of the body. Liver failure can occur in patients who do not seek effective medical treatment.
The virus can be found in foods including raw shellfish, or any fish that has come in contact with tainted water, and stagnant water. It can also be spread through coming in contact with another infected person, including sharing needles or sexual contact.
Ways to prevent infection of Hepatitis A include acquiring adequate drinking water, and proper disposal of sewage and waste. Good hygiene is also a preventive measure which includes regular baths / showers, washing hands before cooking or consuming food, and avoiding contact with infected hosts. Currently there is no treatment for Hepatitis A besides managing your symptoms while the virus takes its course. Vaccinations are used close to when the virus is contracted which can in some cases help the removal of the virus from someone. Vaccines before you even get the virus is the best preventive measure since the virus mainly attacks children, and the vaccine provides immunity.