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Unformatted text preview: Viral hepatitis Causes The hepatitis A virus is found mostly in the stools and blood of an infected person about 15 - 45 days before symptoms occur and during the first week of illness. You can catch hepatitis A if: You eat or drink food or water that has been contaminated by the virus (fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water are common sources of the hepatitis A virus) You come in contact with the stool or blood of a person who currently has the disease A person with hepatitis A does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects or food You participate in sexual practices that involve oral-anal contact There are about 100,000 hepatitis A infections in the United States every year. Risk factors include: International travel, especially to Asia or South or Central America IV drug use Living in a nursing home or rehabilitation center Working in a health care, food, or sewage industry Other common hepatitis virus infections include hepatitis B and hepatitis C . Hepatitis A is the least serious and mildest of these diseases. The other hepatitis infections may become chronic illnesses, but hepatitis A does not become chronic. Symptoms Symptoms will usually show up 2 - 6 weeks after being exposed to the hepatitis A virus. They are usually mild, but may last for up to several months, especially in adults. Symptoms include: Dark urine Fatigue Itching Loss of appetite Low-grade fever Nausea and vomiting Pale or clay-colored stools Yellow skin (jaundice) Tests & diagnosis The doctor will perform a physical examination and may discover that you have an enlarged and tender liver. Hepatitis serology tests may show: Raised IgM and IgG antibodies to hepatitis A (IgM is usually positive before IgG) Elevated liver enzymes (liver function tests) Treatment There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Rest is recommended during the acute phase of the disease when the symptoms are most severe. People with acute hepatitis should avoid alcohol and any substances that are toxic to the liver, including acetaminophen (Tylenol). Fatty foods may cause vomiting, because secretions from the liver are needed to digest fats. Fatty foods are best avoided during the acute phase. Prognosis The virus does not remain in the body after the infection has gone away. Over 85% of people with hepatitis A recover within 3 months. Nearly all patients get better within 6 months. There is a low risk of death, usually among the elderly and persons with chronic liver disease. Complications There are usually no complications. One in a thousand cases becomes fulminant hepatitis, which can be life threatening....
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