What is it?
Hepatitis A is a viral disease that can cause inflammation of the liver, flu-like symptoms and jaundice
What are the symptoms?
Most people experience flu-like symptoms, including headache and fever
Other symptoms include stomach cramps, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), diarrhea, darkened urine and pale-coloured stools, loss of appetite, discomfort/pain in the right upper part of the abdomen
People usually start to feel sick 2-7 weeks after they’ve been infected
Symptoms can last from a week to several months
Where can I contract it?
You can get hepatitis A anywhere, but it’s most common in developing countries, particularly rural areas, where sanitation and hygiene practices may be poor
How can I contract hepatitis A?
The virus is spread when an infected person doesn’t wash their hands properly after using the washroom, and then prepares food or makes hand contact with others who then eat the food or touch their mouths
You may also be infected if you eat uncooked foods such as shellfish
What vaccines are available?
The hepatitis A vaccine
It is 2 shots given 6-12 months apart
One shot of hepatitis A vaccine is effective for immunity
The second shot creates longevity of immunity
Twinrix® for hepatitis A and B is given in a series of 3 doses over 6 months
Vivaxim® for hepatitis A and typhoid – is currently not available in Canada
Will I need a booster?
Possibly, but the hepatitis A vaccine is good for at least 20 years
How can I prevent hepatitis A?
Always wash your hands well with soap and water after going to the washroom, before preparing food and before eating
What is the treatment?
There is no effective treatment for hep A
Most people recover within 4-6 weeks, hospitalization is rare
Up to 20% of infected adults may have a relapse of symptoms, resulting in prolonged illness