Monsoon season is right at our doorstep but are we ready enough to enjoy the wet spells for this year? Along with simple viral infections; fever, cold and cough, flu, malaria, dengue etc that strike during monsoon, people are also exposed to the more serious diseases like jaundice caused by various viruses including Hepatitis A infection.
Hepatitis A is a mild to moderate liver disorder that is transmitted through consumption of contaminated food or water. Since there is a high probability of water contamination during monsoon, an increase in the incidence of Hepatitis A is also observed.
The number one cause of Hepatitis A infection is ingesting food or water contaminated with an infected person’s faeces, and also direct contact with an infected person. In a country like ours, sewage-contamination of drinking water is quite common and hence the spurt in Hep-A infection.
Hepatitis A virus usually takes 14-28 days to incubate and the most common symptom of a Hep –A infection is jaundice i.e. yellowing of the eyes and skin, fever, loss of appetite, weakness, diarrhoea and nausea. The severity of symptoms is slightly more in older children (6 and above) with 70% of those infected suffering from jaundice.
Children and adults who have been previously vaccinated against Hepatitis A are practically at no to very low risk of developing the disease. However, those who have not been vaccinated and get infected with virus, people with poor hygiene, people living with an infected individual are at high risk of acquiring Hepatitis A infection.
The liver is the largest solid organ in the human body. It receives about 1.5 litres of blood per minute, and is involved in three major vital functions that are essential to our body: cleansing, synthesis, and storage. The liver collects many toxins, transforms them to harmless substances, and then eliminates them. It is also involved in metabolising carbohydrates, lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides), and proteins (albumin).
It has an essential role in the production of coagulation factors, to prevent bleeding. The liver stores the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K, and E) and glycogen. It thus stores energy in the form of sugar and makes it available to the body in case of need.
There is no specific treatment or medicines if your liver is infected with Hepatitis-A infection. The only treatment includes adequate nutrition and fluids. Complete recovery may take weeks to months. In few cases the disease may relapse within a month or two. Rarely there can be severe itching all over body. Lastly rare cases can go in to severe liver damage and may go in to fulminant liver failure which may lend the person in ICU needing liver transplant and yet the person may die of ghe disease.
Prevention in the form of vaccination is available these days that ensures safety from Hepatitis A disease. Almost everyone develops antibodies after vaccine that fight against the virus within one month of the single dose of live attenuated Vaccine and gives long-term immunity. In fact, a sudden exposure to the virus within a couple of weeks of vaccination also ensures protection from the virus.
Millions of people have been vaccinated worldwide without any side effects. These days advanced forms of vaccination are available which are given as a single subcutaneous prick instead of the 2 dose traditional intramuscular injection which could be painful and cumbersome for kids.The World Health Organisation recommends that Hepatitis A vaccination should be a part of your child’s immunization plan to ensure long term protection from the infection if there is significant disease burden in your area which is so common in our country. Since these vaccines are cost effective and relatively painless, every parent must ensure their child’s safety with Hepatitis A vaccine.
Moreover, this vaccination can be taken at any age (except below the age of 1); hence even adults, who haven’t suffered from it in past and who weren’t vaccinated in their childhood, too can protect themselves from acquiring this infection by getting vaccinated now.
If adults are infected with the Hepatitis A virus, the symptoms can be more serious, and the disease can even have a fatal outcome. In uppersocio-economic class of people chances of contact with hepatitis A virus for the first time is often delayed to adulthood due to high standards of hygiene earlier in life and when they suffer as adults the disease is more severe in general. When such dangerous liver infection is preventable, why take chances? Before the onset of monsoon, one should protect themselves and their children by proper vaccination, especially if they have missed the vaccine earlier.
Maintaining proper hygiene, washing food thoroughly before eating, drinking boiled water and getting vaccinated are the best ways to prevent a Hepatitis A infection.
Article Credit : Dr. Nitin Shah (Renowned pediatrician)
Image Source : Getty
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