Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver. The hepatitis A virus is transferred through contact with contaminated food and water or with an infected person. The illness is self-limiting and does not cause chronic infection. Cases of hepatitis A are reported across all age groups in New Zealand, as stated by Immune NZ. Many of the people affected have travelled overseas immediately prior to symptoms (during incubation period).

How do you get hepatitis A?

The hepatitis A virus is transmitted via the faecal-oral route by consumption of contaminated food such as raw shellfish, water or milk or close contact with an infected person/persons.

Some groups of people who are at a higher risk from this infection. These groups include:

  • Injecting drug users
  • People with chronic liver disease or who at risk of developing chronic liver disease.
  • Occupational groups who may be exposed to faeces, these include:
  • Employees of early childhood centres
  • Health care workers
  • Sex industry workers
  • People working with sewerage and members of the armed forces.
  • Travellers to moderate- and high-risk countries
  • Men who have sex with men.

Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pains
  • Dark urine
  • Pale-coloured faeces
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)

Symptoms are usually seen in older children and adults from 15-50 days after infection. Young children may not have any symptoms. Symptoms can last up to two months.

Information received from the Immunisation Advisory Centre.

Can I have treatment for hepatitis A?

There is no specific treatment for the Hepatitis A infection. Please see your GP for advice regarding what and when to take medication to relieve pain and fever.

What are the risks of complications due to having hepatitis A?

It is very rare to develop severe liver problems following being infected with hepatitis A, but the risk of complications does increase the older person is and also higher in those with any pre-existing liver disease.

How do I avoid getting hepatitis A?

Hand hygiene is the gold standard for preventing the spread of hepatitis A. Use soap and water to wash your hands after using the toilet or changing nappies, before and after preparing food and before eating.

A vaccine is available for people at risk of infection. It is not funded. To get the full benefit of this vaccine, it is recommended more than one vaccination is needed. For more information please see your family doctor.

Who should get the hepatitis A vaccine?

The NZ Immunisation Advisory Centre 2018 recommends the following people get a vaccine:

  • All children aged one
  • Travellers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Family and caregivers of children adopted from countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Users of recreational drugs
  • People with chronic liver diseases including those with hepatitis B or C
  • People with blood clotting disorders
  • Any person wishing to obtain immune protection.

More information is available on the World Health Organisation website.

 

 

© The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand 2016