Hepatitis is caused by a virus that is targeted at the liver, one of your most important organs!! Specifically, it causes inflammation and injury to the liver. Hepatitis comes in many different forms, five to be exact. There is Hepatitis A, B, C, D & E. Hepatitis is caused mainly by viruses, all of which are set on shutting down your liver.
I will be specifically concentrating on Hepatitis A in this report. Hepatitis A is also known as infectious Hepatitis, an extremely contagious viral infection that often effects young children and young adults, especially those in large groups. It has been known to break out in schools, summer camps and music festivals etc. Hepatitis A is also very common in developing nations. Outbreaks occur due to unsanitary conditions such as contamination of the food and water supply.
The Liver: The liver is an organ which is located upper right part of your abdomen. It has one main function. This function is to clean out your blood. How this happens is from your inferior venacava, there is a group if veins called the mesenteric veins. They branch off and take dirty blood to your liver to be cleaned. Now, when the virus moves in and stops the liver from doing its job, just imagine all the toxins and unwanted waste and chemicals that build up in your body.!!
Causes: Hepatitis A is transmitted almost always by the fecal oral route. It is spread by close personal contact with fecally contaminated water supplies, fruits and vegetables. Poor personal hygiene promotes spread of the virus as well which is why the incidence of Hepatitis is higher in developing nations, where poor sanitary conditions exist. It can also be transmitted by raw or partially cooked clams from contaminated water.
Properties of the virus: The hepatitis A virus is a non – enveloped 27 nano meters in size, virus. It is characterized as a RNA based virus. Inactivation of viral activity can be achieved by heating to 100 C for five minutes, and by contact with formaldehyde and chlorine or by ultraviolet irradiation. The virus is present in the liver, bile, stool and blood during the illness.
Symptoms: The symptoms of viral hepatitis are not very pretty. Getting Hepatitis is not a fun experience. The first symptoms of Hepatitis A are mild and vague. They generally appear from about 2 weeks to 6 months after exposure to the virus. The symptoms at first seem as though you have a mild case of the flu. Therefore, you feel abnormally tired. This keeps up for a few days and you begin to feel a loss of appetite as well as nausea. A low grade fever between 100 f – 102 f is present. A pain and discomfort in the abdomen above the liver is also common, due to enlargement of the liver. After a few days of torture, a persons urine becomes darker than usual and then jaundice, (a yellowish discoloration of the skin) appears. Jaundice and the dark urine indicate that liver is not functioning properly in removing a reddish-yellow pigment called bilirubin from the blood.
Treatment / Prevention:
There is no specific treatment for viral Hepatitis. Bed rest and preferably hospitalization is a necessary step in the early treatment. Even though Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus, isolation of the patient to a single room is not necessary. However, proper prevention methods such as washing your hand after handling the patient, careful handling of the body fluids and feces and wearing gloves when drawing blood is important.
Prolonged bed rest is not essential for full recovery but patients feel better with restricted physical activity. A high calorie diet is a good idea and because many patients have nausea late in the day, the major caloric intake is best given in the morning. Intravenous feeding is necessary if the patient has continuos vomiting. Isolation of the patient to a single room and bath room is unnecessary, however the patient and other people in contact should be reminded of preventative measures such as washing hands and of careful handling of body fluids and feces. Gloves should be worn when handling or drawing blood. Patients may be discharged from the hospital when the symptoms improve. For patients with severe Hepatitis, steroids have been used though their effectiveness has not been proven. Gamma Globulin which is an injection that gives temporary immunity against the virus, can be given, though, it must be given early in the infection if it is to prevent the clinical symptoms.
Preparations of Gamma
Globulin contain anti – Hepatitis A virus. In some cases, the Gamma Globulin does not abort the infection, but renders it inapparent. As a result, long lasting “passive – active” immunity occurs in this patient. People in close personal contact with an infected patient should also be given Gamma Globulin vaccination, as it can give temporary immunity against the virus.
For people traveling to tropical and developing countries, the vaccination is also recommended as it boosts up the immunity.
All these years, people have researching the virus so they can develop a new anti-Hepatitis A vaccination which would be the best prevention. Finally, last year, scientists came up with a new vaccine against Hepatitis A called Havrix.
I know about this because last year, before my family and I went on a trip to India, we all got vaccinated against Hepatitis A with Havrix. None of the books from which I researched had any thing about Havrix because they were not that up to date.
In most cases of infectious Hepatitis, previously healthy people fully recover with in 2 – 6 weeks. Patients in old age or people with serious underlying disorders such as heart failure, Anemia, diabetes, cancer etc. have a much longer recovery period and are more likely to develop a much worse case of the infection and have a poorer prognosis. However, the over all mortality rate of Hepatitis A is less than 1 percent.
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3) Principals and practice of medicine, Harvey, Johns, Mckusick, Owens, Ross, Appleton – Century – Crofts 1979.
4) Medical & health Encyclopedia, Sidney S. Schipper, Round the world books, 1988
5) World Book Encyclopedia, 1992