Hepatitis: The Silent Epidemic in Kentucky
On behalf of the Kentucky Rural Health Association, the Kentucky DPH Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Program and the Kentucky Immunization Program, we would like to thank all our sponsors for making our First Annual Hepatitis: The Silent Epidemic in Kentucky conference such a sucess.
Reminder: Please go to TRAIN Course Number 1050937 to evaluate and get continuing education credits.
||Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus.
Who Is At Risk For Infection
- Household/sexual contacts of an infected person;
- International travelers;
- Persons living in regions with endemic hepatitis A;
- During outbreaks, day care center employees or attendees,
- Men having sex with men,
- Injecting drug users.
How Hepatitis A Is Spread
Hepatitis A (HAV infection) is transmitted by the fecal-oral route (putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with stool of a person infected with hepatitis A).
This transmission occurs through person-to-person contact or ingestion of contaminated food or water. On rare occasions, Hepatitis A is transmitted from transfusion of blood or blood products. Hepatitis is spread more easily in poor sanitary conditions or where good hygiene is not observed.
The Symptoms Of Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis A can have an abrupt onset of symptoms that can include:
- loss of appetite
- abdominal discomfort
- dark urine
- and yellowing of the skin and eyes
- People with hepatitis A virus infection may not have any signs or symptoms of the disease.
- Older people are more likely to have symptoms than children.
- About 70 percent of children younger than 6 who are infected have no symptoms.
- In adults and older children, most infections are accompanied by symptoms and more than 70 percent of those cases include yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
- Signs and symptoms usually last fewer than 2 months, although some people have prolonged or relapsing disease lasting as long as 6 months.
How Hepatitis A Is Diagnosed?
A blood test (IgM anti-HAV) is needed to diagnose hepatitis A. Talk to your doctor or someone from your local health department if you suspect that you have been exposed to hepatitis A or any type of viral hepatitis.
The Treatment For Hepatitis A
Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients should be given post exposure prophylaxis with IG (immune globulin) within two weeks of last exposure.
There is no specific treatment or cure for hepatitis A virus infection.
How Hepatitis A Can Be Prevented
- Careful handwashing and good hygiene.
- Provide proper water treatment and distribution systems and sewage disposal.
- Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended for persons at increased risk for HAV infection or its consequences:
- Persons with chronic liver disease or clotting factor disorders;
- Men who have sex with men;
- Injecting drug users;
- Persons traveling to countries where HAV is endemic;
- Persons who work with HAV infected primates or with HAV in research laboratory settings and;
- Children living in communities that have consistently elevated rates of hepatitis A.
- Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients should be given postexposure prophylaxis with IG within two weeks of last exposure.
- Oysters, clams and other shellfish from contaminated areas should be heated to a temperature of 85 to 90 degrees C for 4 minutes or steamed for 90 seconds before eating.
For more information about Hepatitis A virus, contact your health care provider, local health department, or the Kentucky Department for Public Health at (502) 564-3261.