What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) and results in severe liver disease and sickness. It is a CDC mandated reportable disease that is only transmitted by primates, and unlike most pathogens, does not replicate outside the body. A person usually becomes sick 15 to 50 days post-exposure (consumption) of food or beverage containing the HAV virus. Along with infection comes inflammation of the liver, which is vital for removing harmful chemicals from the body, storing energy, fighting infection, and storing vitamins and nutrients.
Though anyone can contract Hepatitis A, it is most common among people who travel to developing countries, have unprotected sex with an infected individual, use illegal drugs, provide childcare, or live with someone who is infected. If you or somebody you love has contracted the viral infection, contact a qualified Hepatitis A lawyer as soon as you are able. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
How Is Hepatitis A Spread?
Unlike many diseases and illnesses, such as influenza or measles, you cannot get Hepatitis A by simply interacting with an infected person. In other words, hugging, sitting next to, or being coughed on by an infected person will not give you Hepatitis A. Rather, infection is the result of contact with an infected person’s stool. This can happen in a number of ways including:
- Consuming food prepared by an infected person that recently used the bathroom but didn’t wash his or her hands with soap and water;
- Drinking untreated water;
- Coming into close contact with an infected person via sex or caring for someone who is ill; and
- Placing something that has been in contact with an infected person’s stool in your mouth.
Unlike Hepatitis B and C, Hepatitis A is temporary and rarely results in chronic liver disease, but if left untreated, acute liver failure could end in death.
Improved sanitation and hygiene, such as properly washing hands, reduces the likelihood of getting Hepatitis A. It’s critical for individuals who are at risk of infection to take the precautions necessary to protect themselves. Hepatitis A is particularly dangerous for men who have sex with other men, people who use drugs, family members and caregivers of those with Hepatitis A, and individuals with chronic liver diseases.
Hepatitis A Risk Factors
Hepatitis A infections are generally contained in specific regions of the world. Developing countries and areas with poor sanitary conditions are more prone to it. Still, transmission can happen anywhere throughout the globe, as seen by food poisoning lawyer Ron Simon who has represented many people in two of the largest outbreaks of Hepatitis A in recent year, including outbreaks linked to Egyptian strawberries and Turkish pomegranate arils.
Here are a list activities/locations that are considered Hepatitis A risk factors:
- Travel outside the US or Western Europe as most other parts of the world have much higher rates of infection with HAV;
- Child care centers;
- Living with a person who is Hepatitis A positive;
- Sexual contact with a person who is Hepatitis A positive;
- HIV positive persons are more susceptible to HAV;
- Homelessness can be an exposure mechanism;
- A clotting-factor disorder, such as hemophilia makes a person more susceptible to HAV;
- Any type of illegal drugs (not just those that are injected).
How is Hepatitis A Diagnosed?
Many people are diagnosed upon arrival at a hospital because the medical staff can see yellowing eyes or skin. This condition, called jaundice, is associated with a liver that is under attack. Medical staff will immediately order a hepatic function screen, or complete metabolic panel (CMP) to evaluate AST, ALT, and bilirubin levels. A person with cute hepatitis will have extremely elevated liver function numbers. A hepatitis panel is usually run, looking for Hepatitis A, B and C, among others.
The easiest way to test for HAV is through a simple, and usually inexpensive ,Hepatitis A screen. The Hepatitis A test is a blood test that looks for the antigen in the blood – but there are two types, including ones that measure acute (IgM) and remote (IgG) exposure. A positive IgG test shows a person has had HAV in the past, either an acute case of HAV, or were vaccinated. A positive IgM test means the person has acute HAV (they are sick with in now or were very recently). Hence, a “Total HAV” test that is positive (a person has either IgM or IgG) is inconclusive of current illnesses, but a specific finding if IgM establishes current (acute) HAV illness.
Hepatitis Lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates Strongly Recommend Vaccination
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Hepatitis A has the tendency to appear in cyclic recurrences, resulting in sporadic and regional epidemics around the globe. Luckily, Hepatitis A is easily prevented by a vaccine, and younger Americans are routinely vaccinated, which has led to reductions in the number of victims every year in the U.S. But they do still occur and the best way to prevent Hepatitis A (HAV) infection is to receive the Hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccination is recommended for everyone older than 1 year of age and is highly encouraged for those traveling outside of the United States. The Hepatitis A vaccine consists of two shots, which are given six months apart. There’s also a vaccine available for adults aged 18 or older, containing both the Hepatitis A and B vaccines.
HAV is contagious, and like most other pathogens usually being transmitted from one person to another thought the fecal-oral route. Hepatitis A is understood as a self-limited disease with few ongoing symptoms, but the acute stage cannot be underestimated. While victims often recover in a week or two from most common food borne pathogens, HAV victims are routinely sick for months, though this differs based on age and general health. While most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection, in adults 76-97% of victims are symptomatic, experiencing a range of symptoms including debilitating fatigue, diminished appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice (Yellowing of the eyes and skin). Jaundice can be followed by itching and rashes. The jaundice usually resolves in a month or so, but the fatigue and nausea can last 2 or more months.
Luckily, person can only acquire acute HAV once, as antibodies produced in response to Hepatitis A infection last for life and protect against reinfection.
There are many considerations when it comes to the Hepatitis A vaccination. At Ron Simon & Associates, our Hepatitis A attorneys encourage you to visit your healthcare advisor to discuss your situation and the options available to you. The following vaccination complications may occur:
- If you’ve previously had an allergic reaction to the Hepatitis A vaccine.
- If you’re severely allergic to a component of the Hepatitis A vaccine.
- If you’re pregnant, especially since the safety of the vaccine among pregnant women is unconfirmed.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Hepatitis A Lawyer
Ron Simon & Associates is passionate about providing the latest news regarding poisoning outbreaks and litigation in the United States. We’ve helped thousands of clients across the nation recover over $700,000,000 in damages. People in over 180 countries have read our professionally published articles on Food Poisoning. The attorneys at Ron Simon & Associates are recognized as among the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in the United States by the National Trial Lawyers Association.