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Hepatitis A

What is hepatitis?

The liver is one of the organs that helps with digestion but is not part of the digestive tract. It is the largest organ in the body and carries out many important functions, such as making bile, changing food into energy, and cleaning alcohol and poisons from the blood.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that sometimes causes permanent damage. It is caused by viruses, bacteria, certain medications, or alcohol. It may also be caused by certain diseases such as: autoimmune diseases, metabolic diseases, and congenital (present at birth) abnormalities (biliary atresia, Wilson’s disease). Generally, symptoms of hepatitis include fever, jaundice, and an enlarged liver. There are several types of hepatitis.

What causes hepatitis A?

This type of hepatitis is usually spread by fecal-oral contact or fecal-infected food and water, and may also be spread by blood-borne infection (which is rare). The following is a list of modes of transmission for hepatitis A:

  • consuming food made by someone who touched infected feces
  • drinking water that is contaminated by infected feces (a problem in developing countries with poor sewage removal)
  • touching an infected person’s feces, which may occur with poor hand washing
  • outbreaks may occur in large childcare centers, especially when there are children in diapers
  • residents of American Indian reservations or Native Alaskan villages where hepatitis A may be more common
  • sexual contact with an infected person

Generally, casual contact in school or the workplace does not cause spread of the virus.

Treatment for hepatitis A:

Specific treatment for hepatitis A will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Most people recover from hepatitis A infection without medical intervention; however, bed rest and some medications may be suggested.