Things to Know About Hepatitis A & Hepatitis E Infection
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, hepatitis A is an acute viral liver infection and is typically self-limiting. It is an RNA virus, which could be found in stool, liver, and blood throughout the acute phase of the ailment. Most of the time, people affected with Hepatitis A infection get better without any long-term effect. In rare cases, it causes liver failure.
Hepatitis E is also self-limiting and endemic to underdeveloped nations. Exposure to hepatitis E is more common in people with pets or those who eat liver or other kinds of organ meat.
Hepatitis is a major public health concern in India. Both Hepatitis A and E play a significant role in it.
Causes of Hepatitis A or E
Both the varieties of hepatitis spread through contaminated water, food, and human waste. Poor sanitation, poor personal hygiene, and intimate or sexual contact facilitate the transmission of the virus. Traveling to places with a high incidence of hepatitis A is a huge risk factor of getting the infection. Another risk factor is intravenous drug use. Developing countries like India experience food or waterborne epidemics primarily. Ingesting contaminated water or food like raw shellfish may lead to the transmission as well.
Anyone can get infected with hepatitis A& E, more so if not immunized. In areas where there is higher infectious load ( lower socio economic reqions) more often children are affected than adults. Risk factors include
- poor sanitation;
- lack of safe water;
- living in a household with an infected person;
- being a sexual partner of someone with acute hepatitis A infection;
- use of recreational drugs;
- sex between men;
- travelling to areas of high endemicity without being immunized.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A and E
There may not be any clinical signs of symptoms even if a person has the infection. They may even be certain nonspecific symptoms appearing for a short while with or without jaundice. However, when symptoms start to appear, they vary in severity from flu-like to liver failure. Early signs and symptoms include fever, nausea , vomiting , body aches ,rash over the face and arthralgia. As the disease progresses, symptoms like fatigue, malaise, anorexia, myalgia, cough, weight loss, abdominal pain, clay coloured stool, and dark urine start to occur.
Jaundice or yellowish discoloration of skin nails and eyes is also one of the symptoms which occurs between 2-3 days and 2weeks after onset of illness. The general constitutional symptoms subside with onset of jaundice but there is often worsening of nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and itching of skin causing pruritus.
Symptoms typically occur around 4 weeks after exposure , but can sometimes occur as early as 2 weeks or upto 7 weeks after exposure.
Hepatitis A & E can be diagnosed by the doctor based on the history and examination of the signs and symptoms. Blood test for IgG and IgM viral antibodies is confirmatory for both Hepatitis A &E. Stool testing is also done for Hepatitis E. A liver enzymes panel is done to assess the severity of the illness and to also monitor further complications.
Drinking clean water and improving hygiene could prevent infections. Proper hand washing before meals and after defecation is golden. In other words, access and use of clean water for sanitation and consumption purposes are a must. Drink boiled or treated water if clean water is not available naturally.
It is also important to eat well-cooked food.Washing vegetables and fruits thoroughly is essential too. Better to peel the fruits and vegetables properly before eating or cooking.
High-risk people and children should get hepatitis A vaccination to prevent the infection. The vaccine provides protection for 15 -20 years and should be taken specially in cases of travel to places with higher hepatitis infection .
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A or hepatitis E. The disease usually runs its course within 4 weeks. Doctors provide what is known as supportive/ symptomatic care to alleviate symptoms and hell in recovery. Your doctor will also prescribe tests to monitor your condition.
During recover patient must take adequate rest, eat a simple home based soft diet ( avoid fried, oily spicy food, ) and consume clean water . It is advised to avoid salt in food as it increases the itching . They must also avoid consumption of alcohol or any hepatotoxic drugs as these cause additional damage to the liver . Hospitalization is not mandatory in this condition. However at home complete care must be taken to maintain hygiene as hepatitis patients are contagious .
Although extremely rare, hepatitis A and E can result in fulminant hepatitis. Another rare complication resulting due to the infections is liver failure. If a pregnant woman is suffering from hepatitis A or E, she is at higher risk of liver failure. Hepatitis E can cause chronic infection in immunosuppressed people, especially those who underwent organ transplant surgery. Hepatitis E leads to liver cirrhosis as well. However, hepatitis A does not cause chronic infection.
Chronic hepatitis E infection is associated with lower platelet counts, lower serum creatinine, lower liver enzyme levels, and tacrolimus-based immunosuppressive regimens instead of cyclosporine as well.
Consult a doctor immediately if you or a dear one are experiencing symptoms of hepatitis A or E. With early diagnosis, the treatment can be started sooner leading to prompt recovery as well.
Nightingales offer at-home medical services, where you can get a doctor’s consultation or lab tests from the comfort of your home. To schedule the lab test to diagnose hepatitis A, visit: https://www.nightingales.in/lab-tests/tests/hepatitis-a-diagnostic-panel-igm-and-total-lab/5a421406835b4fc9144186f4
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