My last article, ”Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Rotavirus Infection“ we learned that Rotavirus is an infection that is known as the most common cause of inflammation of the stomach and intestines, leading to severe diarrhea in infants and children throughout the world. Before the development of a rotavirus vaccine, most children in the US had at least one bout of rotavirus by age 5.
Symptoms of this condition are fever, vomiting and diarrhea. It is extremely contagious and tends to lead to outbreaks where many children are together like day care centers. The major complication of rotavirus is dehydration due to the vomiting and diarrhea that can lead to a lack of fluid in the body. Very severe dehydration can be fatal. There is now a vaccine that is very effective and provides good immunity to the rotavirus infection. There is no cure for rotavirus, so treatment of the disease is supportive. Today I would like to move onto another childhood illness called Hepatitis A.
What Is Hepatitis A?
According to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-a/symptoms-causes/syc-20367007) Hepatitis A is a very contagious liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis A virus. This virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation of the liver which in turn impacts the ability of the liver to function. Hepatitis A is the most common type of hepatitis in children.
What Is the History of Hepatitis A?
The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies Hepatitis A (HAV) as one of the oldest known diseases mankind has faced according to STD Aware (https://www.stdaware.com/blog/the-history-of-hepatitis-a/). “First discovered by Steven M.Feinstone back in 1973, Hepatitis A was called various names since it started infecting people (epidemic jaundice, epidemic hepatitis, catarrhal jaundice and infectious hepatitis). WHO defined hepatitis as spherical, non-developed, positive stranded RNA virus that inflames the liver.” Hepatitis A virus is absorbed from the small intestines into the bloodstream where it then reaches the liver. At this point in time, humans are the only known species to get infected by HAV.
What Is the Liver?
Because Hepatitis A can affect your liver, it is important to know what the liver does. One cannot live without a liver so it is an extremely important organ. According to Medicine Net (https://www.medicinenet.com/hepatitis_a/article.htm) the liver does the following:
- Removes harmful chemicals from your blood
- Fights infection
- Helps digest food
- Stores nutrients and vitamins
- Stores energy
What Causes Hepatitis A?
According to Medline Plus (https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007670.htm) Hepatitis A is found in the stool and blood of an infected child/adult. A child can catch hepatitis A by the following:
- Coming in contact with the blood or stool of a person who has the disease.
- Eating or drinking food or water that has been contaminated by blood or stools containing the hepatitis A virus. Fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water are common sources of the disease.
- Eating food prepared by someone with the disease who does not wash their hands after using the bathroom.
- Being lifted or carried by someone with the disease who does not wash their hands after using the bathroom.
- Traveling to another country without being vaccinated for hepatitis A.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?
According to the Mayo Clinic Hepatitis A signs and symptoms don’t usually appear until the individual has had the virus for a few weeks. The following are hepatitis signs and symptoms:
- Sudden nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- Intense itching
Symptoms may be relatively mild and go away in a few weeks but Hepatitis A inflection can result in a severe illness that can last for several months. It is very important if you have any signs or symptoms of Hepatitis A to see your doctor.
How Is Hepatitis A Spread?
According to Stanford Children’s (http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=hepatitis-in-children-90-P02517) Hepatitis is usually spread by fecal-oral contact , fecal-infected food and water and rarely by blood-borne infection. The following is a list of modes of transmission for HAV:
- Consuming food made by an infected person who did not wash his or her hands well after using the bathroom
- Drinking water that is contaminated by infected feces — a problem in developing countries with poor sewage removal
- Getting your hands contaminated by an infected person's feces or dirty diaper, and then transmitting the infection to yourself by putting your hands near or in your mouth
- Outbreaks may occur in child care centers especially when there are children in diapers
- International travel to areas where hepatitis A is common
- Sexual contact with an infected person
- Use of illegal drugs
- Blood transfusions (very rare)
What Are the Risk Factors For Hepatitis A?
You are at increased risk of hepatitis A according to Mayo Clinic if you:
- Travel or work in areas of the world where hepatitis A is common
- Attend child care or work in a child care center
- Live with another person who has hepatitis A
- Are a man who has sexual contact with other men
- Have any type of sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- Are HIV positive
- Have a clotting-factor disorder, such as hemophilia
- Use any type of illegal drugs (not just those that are injected)
How Is Hepatitis A Diagnosed?
According to Stanford Children’s in addition to a medical exam and medical history by the physician, there are many diagnostic procedures and test that can be conducted:
- Blood testing for liver enzymes, liver function studies, antibody and polymerase chain reaction studies, cellular blood counts, and coagulation tests.
- Computed tomography scan (CT scan) that can show detailed images of bones, muscles, fat and organs.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that produces detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
- Liver biopsy where a small sample of liver tissue is obtained and examined for abnormalities.
How Is Hepatitis A Treated?
There is no specific treatment for HAV. Individuals with hepatitis A generally get better after a few weeks. There are those who can have symptoms for up to 6 months according to Medicine Net so the doctor may suggest medicines to help relieve the symptoms. Because it is a virus, your body will eventually clear out the HAV with time.
How To Prevent Hepatitis A?
According to Hepatitis A (http://www.hepatitisasymptomscure.com/) the best way to prevent from getting Hepatitis A is to have the Hepatitis A Vaccine given in 2 doses usually 6 months apart. Other preventative measures are as follow:
- Always wash hands with clean water and soap after using toilet or changing diapers of the babies
- Use only bottled water for drinking purpose. If bottled water is not available you can install RO purifiers at your home for drinking and cooking purpose. Kent RO is one of the leading brand which provides 100% purification and also retain the natural essential minerals of the water
- Avoid raw or undercooked meat or fish
- Practicing good hygiene
According to My Chart (https://mychart.geisinger.org/staywel/html/Inpatient/3,88681.html) “have your child and others in the household vaccinated against viral hepatitis. The hepatitis A vaccine is safe for any adult or child over age 1. Once a child has hepatitis A, he can’t get it again. But he could get another type of hepatitis. And getting vaccinated soon after exposure to HAV could prevent illness.
It is also recommended that those in the high risk realm, which was discussed earlier in this post, to have the HAV vaccine. Getting liver failure is a life-threatening condition which requires urgent medical intervention and should be avoided at all cost.
In conclusion Hepatitis A is a very contagious liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis A virus. This virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation of the liver which in turn impacts the ability of the liver to function. Hepatitis A is the most common type of hepatitis in children. It is found in the stool and blood of an infected individual. Some of the ways of getting HAV is by eating food made by an infected person who did not wash his or her hands well after using the bathroom, drinking water that is contaminated by infected feces, traveling to places where HAV is common, & getting your hands contaminated by an infected person and then putting your hands near or in your mouth.
Some symptoms are fatigue, sudden nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, etc. Most cases of HAV don’t require treatment as most people who are infected recover in time on their own. The goal is to prevent from getting hepatitis A which can be done by a vaccination and following good hygiene practices.
I hope you learned something from this article about Hepatitis A. There are many resources on the internet if you need more specific information. I will continue this series with another childhood disease post. I hope you will continue to join me in this quest to learn about these illnesses that children usually encounter when they are young. Thank-you for reading my article on ”Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Hepatitis A”. If you would like to follow me, please check HERE
These are my previous articles. if you are interested in reading it:
Teachers & Parents Beware of Impetigo: I Gave It To My Teacher
Childhood Diseases –On a Mission to Learn: Chicken Pox
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Strep Throat
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Fifth Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Measles
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Mumps
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Croup
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Asthma
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Tetanus
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Ear Infections
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Reye’s Syndrome
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Kawasaki Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Ringworm
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Lyme Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Rotavirus Infection