In the past few years, there has been a drive to increase public awareness about hepatitis and other STDs. There are many different types of hepatitis, and you are likely familiar with at least a few of the most common kinds. However, many men and women fail to realize that hepatitis can be transmitted through sexual contact. In particular, Hepatatis A can be passed from an infected partner, potentially causing a number of unpleasant side effects. Here is some of the basic information that you will need to know about Hepatitis A and the steps that you can take to prevent contracting the disease.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is one of the most common types of hepatitis and leads to inflammation of the liver. Caused by a virus, Hepatitis A is also known as Viral Hepatitis A. There are actually four other known types of viral hepatitis, including Hepatitis B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that belongs to a family of viruses known as the Picornaviridae family. Currently, more than 22,000 men and women in the United States are suffering from viral Hepatitis A. The virus tends to develop in outbreaks, and is commonly found in institutions, like military barracks and dorm rooms. Hepatitis A rates tend to vary greatly by country.
How is Hepatitis A Transmitted?
Hepatitis A is transmitted through person-to-person contact with infected stool, or with an object that has been contaminated by infected stool. In particular, it can be transmitted through sexual activity, including:
- oral sex
- anal sex
- vaginal sex
The hepatitis A virus can also be transmitted by living in close quarters with an infected person. Additionally, it is transmitted through intravenous drug use or by eating contaminated shellfish or water.
Who's At Risk for Catching Hepatitis A?
Every man and woman is at risk for catching Hepatitis A. However, certain factors do seem to increase your chances of developing the virus, including:
- use of illegal drugs
- travelling to a country with a high rate of Hepatitis A infections
- engaging in unprotected sex
What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?
The majority of Hepatitis A sufferers report having few or no symptoms. In fact, 40% of those infected in the United States are unaware that they even h
ave the disease. When symptoms of Hepatitis A do occur, they typically appear between 10 and 50 days after initial infection. The appearance of symptoms depends upon how many units of infected material you have ingested. The more infectious agents you consume, the sooner symptoms typically manifest. Symptoms include:
- dark urine
- loss of appetite
Symptoms usually disappear within one or two weeks.
Complications of Hepatitis A
Fortunately, Hepatitis A rarely causes any severe health complications. Occasionally, symptoms of Hepatitis A infection can be serious, persisting for six months or longer. Very rarely (in fewer than 1% of cases), Hepatitis A can result in death. However, this usually only occurs in elderly patients or those with otherwise compromised immune systems.
Hepatitis A Treatment
Typically, Hepatitis A requires no specialized treatment. Symptoms often disappear on their own without causing any serious health complications. If you develop Hepatitis A, you may receive an injection of immune globulin (IG) to prevent the virus from worsening or to prevent symptoms from appearing. However, immune globulin can only be given within two weeks of initial infection. You may also be hospitalized or given special liquids to take in order to prevent or rectify dehydration.
Preventing Hepatitis A
It is very important to take steps to prevent Hepatitis A transmission and infection. There is now a vaccination available to guard against Hepatitis A, which can be given to anyone over the age of 12 months. The vaccination is given in two stages, usually between six and 18 months apart. It provides effective protection against hepatitis A for up to 25 years. The vaccination is recommended for:
- anyone traveling to countries where Hepatitis A is common
- anyone living with someone who is infected with Hepatitis A
- illegal drug users
- all sexually active men and women
Hepatitis A can also be prevented by limiting your number of sexual partners and by always engaging is safe sexual activity. When having sex, always use a condom, and try to limit your number of sexual partners. If you are unable to engage in safe sexual practices, abstain from all sexual activity.