What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A presents as inflammation of the liver as a result of the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Although hepatitis A is rarely fatal and will not lead to permanent liver damage, it is still an uncomfortable disease with severe symptoms that can last up to six months, says Dr Wijaya.
The good news is that you can only be infected once. Your body will naturally develop antibodies to give you lifelong immunity from future hepatitis A infection.
How is the hepatitis A virus transmitted?
Hepatitis A usually spreads by faecal-oral transmission.
This means eating food, and drinking water and other fluids (including ice), that are contaminated by the stools of an infected person. Eating raw or undercooked shellfish such as cockles, clams and mussels that come from sewage-contaminated sea water will also put you at risk of hepatitis A infection.
Poor personal hygiene such as not washing your hands with soap after using the toilet and before preparing food (or eating food prepared by a person with such poor hygiene) can cause the viral infection to spread.
Symptoms of hepatitis A infection
The hepatitis A virus will usually stay in your body for two to six weeks before you show any signs and symptoms of the disease. Symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and whites of eyes)
- Dark urine
- Light or grey-coloured stools