Hepatitis A is a highly infectious viral disease that causes the inflammation of the liver. The Hepatitis A disease can be mild and self limiting or severe resulting in cirrhosis, fibrosis and liver cancer. The Hepatitis A disease is caused by the Hepatitis A virus or HAV virus and is spread by the having contaminated food and drinks. Once infected the symptoms can take nearly 2 to 6 weeks to appear and once appeared it can last for another 8 weeks. Once infected, around 10 to 15% of people report the recurrence of the symptoms within 6 months of the initial infection. Although Hepatitis A is usually mild and self limiting in few rare cases it can become extremely severe and result in acute liver failure.
The common symptoms of Hepatitis A include nausea, diarrhoea, jaundice, fever and abdominal pain among others. Hepatitis A is common in developing countries where people have no or limited access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation.
The main cause of Hepatitis A is the HAV virus, which enters the human body through poor sanitation, drinking contaminated water and food. Eating shellfish also results in Hepatitis A infection, as often they are bred in polluted water.
Once the HAV virus enters the body, it enters the blood stream through the epithelium of the oropharynx or intestines. After that the blood carries the HAV virus to its prime target, the liver. Once in the liver the virus starts to multiply itself and affect the functioning of the liver.
The main Hepatitis A test used in the diagnosis of the disease is a HAV – IgM antibodies test. This IgM Hepatitis A test is basically a blood test where the presence of antibodies named IgM are identified and its presence usually means acute stage of the illness.
There is no specific Hepatitis A treatment and the available Hepatitis A treatment is more aimed towards supportive care and effective management of the symptom. The Hepatitis A treatment basically involves providing nutritional balance, replacement of fluids lost due to vomiting and diarrhoea.
As part of the treatment the doctor also prescribes a specific Hepatitis A diet aimed at aiding the liver recovery process. The special Hepatitis A diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole cereals and avoiding the intake of sugary and salty foods as it puts the liver under further strain.
Since there is no active treatment of the HAV virus, prevention is the best approach towards this disease and the best prevention from HAV virus is provided by the Hepatitis A vaccination. The Hepatitis A vaccine is completely safe to use in adults and children and has a high efficacy rate of nearly 95% in preventing the disease. Once vaccinated the Hepatitis A vaccine provides immunity against the disease for nearly 15 years and possibly for an entire life.
The stand alone Hepatitis A vaccine does not provide protection from other types of Hepatitis like Hepatitis B and C. There are two types of Hepatitis A vaccines widely available, namely;
Live attenuated vaccine – This vaccine is widely used for Hepatitis A vaccination in China and in the Indian private sector.
Formaldehyde – inactivated HAV vaccines – This vaccine is widely used globally for the Hepatitis A vaccination of both kids and adults.
The Hepatitis A schedule recommends the Hepatitis A vaccine to be given to all children and adults in Hepatitis A infection prone areas. The Hepatitis A vaccine consists of two doses. The first Hepatitis A vaccine dose is to be given to children at the age 12 to 23 months and the second Hepatitis A vaccine dose to be given after minimum 6 months from the first dose. In healthy adults a single dose Hepatitis A vaccination is also efficient in preventing the disease.
Hepatitis A vaccine booster is generally not required if the full course of Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccine is administered or when Hepatitis A vaccine and typhoid vaccine is given in combination. The Hepatitis A vaccine booster is also not required if the second dose of the Hepatitis A vaccination is given within 6 – 12 months either in combination or as a single vaccine.
Apart from the general and mild Hepatitis A vaccine side effects, there is no major reaction to the Hepatitis A vaccination, except for in a few very rare cases. The common Hepatitis A vaccine side effects are;
Soreness at the site of the vaccine injection
In few rare instances some people also complain of shoulder pain, severe allergic reaction, dizziness and fainting.
The Hepatitis A vaccine costs are depended upon various factors like the type of the vaccine being used, the dosage and the brand of the vaccine. Apart from that there are also the additional charges of a doctor’s fee and the clinical or hospital charges that add to the Hepatitis A vaccine cost. Usually the Hepatitis A vaccine cost averages around Rs 1000 in India.