Hepatitis means “inflammation of the liver.” Hepatitis A is a specific type of hepatitis that is caused by a contagious virus and causes liver inflammation and the symptoms that come with it. The infection occurs worldwide causing disease of the liver that is usually not life threatening. Recently in Florida, more cases have been appearing, including an outbreak in Pinellas and Pasco counties.
The Hepatitis A virus is spread through the feces (poop is the culprit!) of the people who have the virus. If a person with the virus in their system does not wash their hands after going to the bathroom, the virus stays on their hands. (Yes, this is gross but real. This is why bathrooms have signs saying: “All employees must wash hands”, but do they?) Now that the virus is on a person’s hands, it can be transferred to objects, surfaces, food, or drinks when that person touches them. If any of these objects are shared or touched by you, unknowingly the virus can transfer to you, once swallowed then you to will become infected. Also, when people come into close contact with others who have the virus, like family members, the virus can spread. A person with Hepatitis A can be contagious for a period before and after their symptoms even begin.
Common symptoms of the Hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. People may also have dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and jaundice (yellow skin or eyes).
A person can be diagnosed with Hepatitis A by being seen at our Urgent Care through their signs or symptoms, a physical examination, and blood testing. There are other viruses and illnesses that can cause these same symptoms so don’t assume it is Hepatitis A, you need to be tested.
Most people that catch Hepatitis A recover with rest, increased fluids, and a bland diet. The amount of time it takes for a person to feel better varies. Overall, a person who has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A should not return to work or school until the fever and jaundice are gone and their appetite has come back. In severe cases, people have to be hospitalized so doctors can monitor their liver function, manage any complications, and provide nutrition to help that person recover. Unlike other types of Hepatitis infections, people with Hepatitis A do not normally develop long term liver disease after the infection. Once a person has had Hepatitis A they do not normally get infected again as they develop antibodies to the infection.
The Hepatitis A Vaccination is very effective in preventing the infection, and Hand washing can significantly decrease the spread of the virus. To avoid contracting the virus make sure to wash your hands after using the bathroom, preparing foods, touching public surfaces, changing a diaper, coughing, sneezing, and before you eat or drink.
If anyone is severely dehydrated or experiencing severe symptoms, they require emergency medical care and should call 911.
See our Physicians and P.A.s at Doctor’s Urgent Care for the highest quality medical evaluation and treatment. We are familiar with the Hepatitis A infection and can help diagnosis it and ease your symptoms during the infection.
David B. Dean, MD
Doctors Urgent Care