Although hepatitis A is not common in Australia, it’s still a good idea to understand how people develop this disease, particularly if you’re planning in doing some overseas travel. This is because for Australians, hepatitis A is usually spread overseas when an individual eats food or drinks liquid that is in some way contaminated with infected faecal matter. In this article, we take a closer look at how this might happen, in addition to looking at methods of treatment for hepatitis A.
Understanding more about contracting hepatitis A
The first thing to note regarding hepatitis A is that even though it can cause serious harm, it readily has a vaccine available – the vivaxim vaccine – that can help prevent this damage. If you are planning on going somewhere that might require this vaccine (some specific places overseas), your doctor will often recommend it to you before you go. This pressing need to get vaccinated against hepatitis A is due to how extremely contagious it can be, and it is imperative that those who are carrying the disease stay away from highly populated and vulnerable areas, such as childcares, schools, workplaces and busy urban zones. Although hepatitis A can be bad for some individuals, symptoms for most patients include things like fever, stomach pains, nausea, jaundice (the development of yellow skin and eyes) and darker urine than normal, with many of these symptoms occurring due to hepatitis affecting the liver. Some people with hepatitis may not even demonstrate symptoms particularly those under the age of five which is why it’s so important that you see your doctor if you believe you may have contracted hep A. Even if it is contracted, most patients will thankfully make a full recovery.
How hepatitis A can develop in patients
Contracting hepatitis A can be very easy when travelling overseas in certain countries, such as South America, Africa, Russia and Asia. Transmission usually occurs as a result of faecal-oral contact, such as when someone who is infected prepares food without exercising proper hygiene, if contaminated sewerage makes its way into a water supply, or through sexual contact (and particularly through oral-anal sex in this instance). These factors mean that transmission in Australia is relatively uncommon, but it can still happen in certain instances, such as when remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities might not have access to clean drinking water. If you travel to one of these at-risk countries and contract hepatitis A, you’ll find that you won’t immediately demonstrate symptoms because symptoms start approximately 2 to 4 weeks after catching the disease, you might even start developing symptoms after returning home, and this is the point where you should contact a doctor and self-isolate.
How to manage hepatitis A
If you do not receive the hepatitis A vaccine and contract the illness, there is only a very small chance that you will be subject to severe symptoms such as liver failure. Because there is no medicine to heal those who have already contacted it, you will more often than not just need to get plenty of rest, drink fluids regularly and abstain from any alcohol use or use of medicines that have some kind of interaction with your liver. If you’re unsure about what these medicines could be, your doctor will usually advise.