Januyary 5, 2018 – How To Protect Yourself From Hepatitis A And E Viruses
By Dr Joel Akande
Another set of very dangerous germs that often poison us through what we consume are hepatitis A and E. Both hepatitis A and E are viruses. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Therefore, the primary area that hepatitis A and E will cause most damage is in the liver. Human beings have only one liver. A damaged person with severely damaged liver without replacement via liver transplant could be facing a terminal illness. Like most food and water poisoning that we had discussed, Hepatitis A and E have their roots in poor sanitation and food handlers with poor sanitary behaviour. Even if the consumers of the food maintain a perfect personal hygiene or if the consumer of the food are innocent children, so long as the food handlers somehow found a way to contaminate the food, then the consumer of the food will become ill.
We discussed issue of incubation period before now. For hepatitis A, the incubation period is about four weeks before the illness begins to appear.
Caution: Please note that the extremely common and deadly hepatitis B and C viruses are not transmitted via food and water. These are transmitted via sex and any form of blood transfusion (sharing of blades, needles, tooth brushes and actual clinical blood transfusion).
Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A
In general, hepatitis A presents itself like all other hepatitis viral infection. Feeling of being tired and generally being unwell may be the first sets of symptoms. Of course, there are thousands of other illnesses such as malaria and typhoid that may also present in similar form. Joint and muscle pain may appear as well as if one was suffering from malaria. A high temperature (fever), loss of appetite, feeling or being sick (nausea) could mimic other diseases. However, pain in the upper-right part of your tummy (abdomen), yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine and pale stools, itchy skin will help us to differentiate hepatitis from other illnesses that may cause confusion. There could be pain in the tummy too after the initial symptoms which I discussed above.
The good news though is that most people will make a good progress and recovery. The symptoms can come and go for up to six months in some people.
Likely complications: In a few people, the liver can stop working after a while. This is called liver failure. A disease called cirrhosis can develop which if not treated may lead to liver failure or liver cancer.
Treatment of Hepatitis A
Professionals will deal with clinical treatment but you can help yourself too. Avoid paracetamol medication, alcohol and vigorous exercise including sex. You should drink plenty of water. You need rest too and reduce daily activities for now. You may require some high glucose drink to provide energy for you.
Fortunately, we do have vaccine for hepatitis A. So, if you need to protect yourself and your family from infection of hepatitis A, you should go for vaccination as soon as possible. Just for completion, hepatitis B also has vaccination. Hepatitis C does not. You should be aware that, you could transmit the infection to others if you fail to adhere to the personal hygiene which I have earlier described. This includes hand washing after toileting, proper disposal of feaces and avoid food handling for now until the illness subsides
Hepatitis E occurs world-wide, but especially where sanitation may be poor (such as Asia, Africa and Central America). Just as in other food poisoning, the virus spreads by the consumption of sewage-contaminated food and water. The source of contamination is faeces shed from other infected people (or infected animals).
The virus may also spread from animals to human beings through the consumption of undercooked or raw pig and game meat, processed pork and shellfish. Person to person transmission of the virus is very much rare, though the virus has been shown to have passed between people through blood transfusion and solid organ transplantation.
Although the incubation period of the virus is about 15 to 60days, the symptoms and impact on human beings are similar to Hepatitis A. Usually the illness may resolve within 30 days. There is a risk of small complications similar to hepatitis A. However, pregnant women and people with low or suppressed immunity are at greater risk of complications from the virus.
As at the time of this writing, there is no licensed vaccine for hepatitis E. Prevention of infection can be achieved by: cooking meat and meat products thoroughly, avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and shellfish, washing hands thoroughly before preparing, serving and eating food, boil all drinking water, including water for brushing teeth and avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and shellfish.