Hepatitis A (HAV) is one of the five types of hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E that causes liver illness, and severe health conditions and might lead to death if untreated earliest. In this article, we will know more about Hepatitis A including about Hepatitis A symptoms, vaccine, testing, and more.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a widespread outbreak of Hepatitis A infection transmitting person to person since the year 2016, in the United States. As of May 23, 2020, around 33 states have reported 32,554 Hepatitis A cases where 19,895 of them are hospitalized and 324 deaths.
Fortunately, a vaccine has been developed for Hepatitis A and the viral infection be cured completely. The disease is unlikely to reinfect as the antibodies will be present in the blood life-long. As for the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), there is no vaccine or proper medications to completely diagnose.
The article below covers all the relevant topics of hepatitis A-viral infection like Hepatitis A symptoms, hepatitis A transmission, Hepatitis A treatment, complications, and how to get tested for a Hepatitis A infection.
- What are Hepatitis and their types?
- What is Hepatitis A?
- What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?
- Is hepatitis A an STD?
- What are hepatitis A causes?
- How is hepatitis A transmitted?
- Hepatitis A vaccine.
- Hepatitis A treatment.
- Complications of the Hepatitis A infection.
- How to get tested for Hepatitis A infection?
- How is the Hepatitis A blood test performed?
- Is there any preparation required before the test?
- Are there any risks in the test?
- What does the test result mean?
- How to prevent Hepatitis A infection?
What are Hepatitis and their types?
Hepatitis A, B, and C are caused by a virus called Hepatovirus. They are named alphabetically as all the types have an initial impact of affection in the liver. Hepatovirus is identified to be isolated from seal about 1800 years ago and shares the same genetics to hepatovirus. However, today humans and vertebrates serve as the main hosts for Hepatitis. Hepatovirus enters the bloodstream through nasal or intestine tract and carries the virus to its target, liver. Hepatitis A virus mainly spreads through contaminated water and food with feces (even in very tiny amounts) of the infected person. Countries with poor hygiene and low-sanitary practices are very prone to viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is not a chronic liver disease. Sometimes, hepatitis A symptoms cause acute liver failure (fulminant hepatitis), which is often fatal. In contrast to other viruses like hepatitis B and hepatitis C, they cause serious live conditions like cirrhosis, jaundice, and other health problems.
Viral Hepatitis are named alphabetically as they cause liver inflammation and primarily attacks the liver.
What is hepatitis A?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A every year, worldwide. Hepatitis A is a contagious and infectious viral disease affecting the liver. This type usually doesn’t cause major illness and can get rid of the infection by undergoing treatment and taking the vaccination. The hepatitis A symptoms are asymptomatic in nature and the time taken for the symptoms to exhibit is between 2 to 6 weeks since the initial contraction of the infection. Once the hepatitis A symptoms occur, they last for eight weeks and may include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, jaundice, fever, and abdominal pain.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A symptoms do not show up at an early stage especially in children who are very young. They can be living with hepatitis infection for a long time as they do not know that they have been affected as the symptoms of Hepatitis maintain a low profile.
Symptoms of hepatitis A are
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal discomfort
- Dark-colored urine
All of these hepatitis A symptoms may or may not been shown in everyone who is affected with Hepatitis A viral infection. Some experience a few symptoms and some can undergo all the symptoms, also the severity of the symptoms varies widely between infected individuals ranging from mild to extreme.
Hepatitis A infected children who are below the age of 6 do not develop or exhibit symptoms of hepatitis A, whereas in adults the symptoms can be shown easily. The severity of the infection and fatal rates are higher in elderly people. Acute liver failure occurs rarely in adults and children, but it is more often in elderly people.
Is hepatitis A an STD?
If a person has sexual contact with hepatitis A infected person, the virus can easily transmit to the other partner. Unlike hepatitis B and hepatitis C (Hep C), this viral Hepatitis A (HAV) can only be spread through oral-anal sexual acts. Vaginal sex cannot transfer the disease.
What are hepatitis A causes?
The bacteria and other microorganisms in the feces are the main sources of causing Hepatitis A virus. When you consume contaminated food or water that is suspected to come from an unhealthy environment, there is a high risk of getting infected by viral hepatitis.
- Poor sanitation and lack of cleanliness
- Deficiency of hygiene and safe water
- Eating raw or semi-cooked shellfish
- Living in a household with an infected person
- Having sexual contact with hepatitis A infected person
- Taking recreational drugs
- Men having sex with men (MSM)
- Commuting to areas of high endemicity without taking immunity vaccines
Globally, symptomatic Hepatitis A infections are estimated at around 1.4 million people a year. About 114 million infections (including asymptomatic) occurred all together in the year 2015. Acute hepatitis A virus has caused 11,200 deaths in 2015.
Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E transmissions, and sometimes outbreaks are seen in developing and underdeveloped countries like Africa, India, etc. where cleanliness is not well-taken care of. Developed countries like the US, UK, etc. are less vulnerable to Viral Hepatitis outbreaks due to vaccination protocols and low pollution levels.
How is Hepatitis A transmitted?
The primary mode of hepatitis A virus spreading is by the fecal-oral route, and infections are commonly seen in areas of poor sanitation and overcrowding. The following are the means of hepatitis A transmission
- Contaminated food and water
- Men sex with men
- Exposing to areas of a high epidemic without prior immunization
Is hepatitis A contagious?
Yes, hepatitis A can be highly contagious if the environment lacks sanitation and highly polluted. Viral hepatitis transmits from person to person via contaminated water, which is due to sewage-contaminated or water supply that is not treated/filtered adequately. Food-borne outbreaks are very common, and intake of shellfish cultivated in polluted water is associated with a high risk of infection.
Hepatitis A can also be transmitted by the parenteral route, but in rare cases by blood and blood products. In families, when an infected person makes food for others without cleaning the hands, the virus can be spread to other members.
Hepatitis A Vaccine
Thankfully vaccines have been developed to cure and prevent further infection of the hepatitis A virus.
There are two types of hepatitis A vaccines. Both activate antibodies either injecting inactivated Hepatovirus A or to live but weakened virus. Both vaccines provide prolonged immunity to prevent reinfection. The hepatitis A vaccine is given by two doses. The initial dose provides protection lasting one year initiating 2–4 weeks after vaccination and the second dose is given as a booster at six to 12 months later, extending the protection for over 20 years.
Every year 28 July is celebrated as world hepatitis day because it is the birthday of Nobel-prize winning scientist Dr. Baruch Bloomberg, who discovered the vaccine for hepatitis B virus in the year 1967.
After the discovery of the vaccine, countries like China and the United States adapted the hepatitis vaccine in childhood immunization schedules and have seen a dramatic reduction in viral hepatitis infection by 90% since 1990. The vaccine prevents HAV reinfection in more than 95% of cases providing longer than 25 years of immunity.
Hepatitis A treatment
The therapy period of viral HAV is usually 14–28 days. There is no specific medication or treatment for hepatitis A. Recovery from hepatitis A symptoms may be slow and may take several weeks or months. Most important is the avoidance of unnecessary medications. General antibiotics like Paracetamol to stop vomiting should not be given.
Hospitalization is not required unless there is acute liver failure. Hepatitis A treatment is aimed at maintaining rest and to provide adequate nutritional balance, to energize and replenish the fluids that are lost due to vomiting and diarrhea.
Complications of hepatitis A infection
Though the hepatitis A symptoms are neither chronic nor life-threatening, the infection is curable by vaccination, leaving untreated or not taking precautionary steps, you may end up with acute liver failure. Not cleaning away the source of the disease, you might get reinfected and the virus will be resistant against the antibodies and a higher dosage may be required to fight the virus.
In 1988, more than 300,000 people in Shanghai, China, were infected with HAV after eating clams from a contaminated river. Viral Hepatitis is considered as epidemics.
How to get tested for Hepatitis A infection?
We have shortlisted the top 3 laboratories networks providing Hepatitis A Testing in the US, mentioned them below.
Hepatitis A test cost ranges between $24 and $72 in different labs and facilities across the U.S. The cost of the HAV test also depends on the type of test i.e. HAV antibody IgM test or HAV immunity testing.
No prior appointment is required. Compare the cost, order your test online and visit the nearest lab during lab business hours. Complete the procedure and get the results in your email in 2 to 3 business days.
HAV antibody IgM test
HAV antibody IgM test is done to rule out the presence of the first antibody in the body produced to fight a new infection. The following table shows the HAV antibody test cost at 3 of our partner laboratories (CLIA – Certified) network located across the U.S.
Name of our Partner Labs
Hepatitis A immunity testing
The following table shows the Hepatitis A immunity test cost at 3 of our partner laboratories (CLIA – Certified) network located across the U.S.
The Hepatitis A immunity test measures two types of antibodies for the hepatitis A virus:
- Immunoglobulin M (IgM): The first antibody the body produces to fight a new infection.
Total Antibody (AB)/Immunoglobulin G (IgG): A long-term protective antibody that remains in the body to guard itself against bacterial and viral infections.
Name of our Partner Labs
Our above mentioned Hepatitis A testing providers do not accept any health insurance policy but, on request, they can provide the itemized receipt which is necessary for insurance reimbursement purposes.
How is the Hepatitis A blood test performed?
Test for Hepatitis A is a simple blood test done using the blood sample.
During this test, a lab technician or a phlebotomist will cleanse the area to be injected with an antiseptic and wrap an elastic band around the upper arm to make the vein visible and pool with blood. He/she then injects a needle to draw a sample of blood and collects the blood sample in a test tube. After the blood is drawn, he/she covers the injected area with a band-aid or a cotton ball to stop bleeding. The collected blood sample is then sent to the lab for further analysis.
It takes less than 5 to 10 minutes to perform this test.
Is there any preparation required before the test?
No special preparation is required before taking the HAV test. If you have any abnormal bleeding disorder, inform the phlebotomist before taking the test.
Are there any risks in the test?
There are no possible risks or complications in taking the HAV blood test. But sometimes, after the blood sample is drawn, you might feel slight pain, dizziness, or bruise in the injected area for a very little period.
What does the test result mean?
If the HAV antibody test results are negative, it means that the person has not been exposed to the virus. However, if you suspect that you have been exposed to the virus, get tested for HAV antibody test again after a certain period. If the test results are positive, it means that the person has been exposed to the hepatitis A virus at some point in time.
How to prevent hepatitis A infection?
A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis A.
- Safe water and food supply, improved sanitation, and the hepatitis A vaccine are the most effective ways to combat the disease.
- Frequent hand washing.
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs.
- Drinking plenty of water and taking a fiber-rich diet to avoid nutritional imbalance
- Travelers who commute to countries with high epidemics, Men having sex with men, and persons who inject drugs can get vaccinated.
Also, eliminating the source of the infection and keeping the surroundings clean are very good preventive measures that can be practiced.
Hepatitis A testing can be done in any of the following locations across the U.S. by visiting the lab. To know the HAV test cost, refer to the above tabular column.
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Frequently Asked Questions
Will insurance cover my testing cost?
No, insurance will not be covered in the billing. However, they will provide you a receipt for insurance reimbursement purposes.
How should I book my appointment?
You can choose the most suitable provider from above and make an appointment by following the instructions mentioned by them.
Can I cancel my lab test order?
Yes, you can cancel your lab test order anytime before your testing. A refund will be initiated after deducting the cancellation fee. However, cancellation is at the discretion of the provider.
Do the providers offer result interpretations?
Yes, a few providers may provide doctor consultation who will take you through the results and provide clarification if needed.
How do I receive my report?
To ensure your privacy, the test report will be mailed to you by the provider.
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