Hepatitis can be termed as the inflammation of liver. It can be caused by viruses, toxic agents, etc. The acute medical condition of hepatitis A (formerly known as infectious hepatitis) occurs most commonly in children of developing countries, though the infection cases can be found in all age groups around the world. The hepatitis A virus can spread through feces, raw shellfish, contaminated food, cooking utensils, etc. You can undertake simple measures like washing of hands, heating of food and water, vaccination, etc. to prevent hepatitis A infection as this infection is totally preventable.
Prevention methods for hepatitis A
1. Washing of hands
Washing hands thoroughly and carefully several times a day with warm water and soap especially after changing a diaper, after using the bathroom/restroom or before preparing food is beneficial in preventing hepatitis A. Those who have hepatitis A infection should also wash hands after using bathrooms, before touching others and before preparing or touching food. They should also dry hands with air or paper in order to reduce and prevent the chances of passing on the hepatitis A infection to other people. Personal hygiene is very important in preventing hepatitis A and can help in preventing many other diseases also.
2. Single vaccination
Vaccines by the name VAQTA and HAVRIC are found to be safe, contain no live viruses and work effectively to prevent hepatitis A. No serious side or adverse effects of the vaccines have been reported yet. Soreness at the injected site can occur for a few days after the administration of vaccine infection.
3. Joint vaccination
The combined vaccine for hepatitis A and B is also available for the over 18 age group. The name of this vaccine is Twinrix. The vaccine is administered in a two shot series. The second dose is given after 6 to 18 months of administering the first. The vaccine protection in the vaccinated person starts after 2 to 4 weeks of administration of the first dose/shot. The second shot ensures that the vaccinated person gets protected from the infection for a number of years (the vaccine protection is thought to last for a period of twenty years). The vaccine must be given to the infected person before the infection occurs as they fail to work after an infection has occurred.
The hepatitis A vaccination can be especially useful when; a person lives with a person with hepatitis A infection, had sexual contact with somebody having the infection, had shared illegal drugs (injected or non injected) recently with someone having the infection, had eaten food in a restaurant where the food handlers or the food itself has been found to be contaminated or had close contact with someone having hepatitis A infection.
4. Use of household bleach for cleaning contaminated surfaces
The household bleach can kill the hepatitis A viruses and therefore you should use it for cleaning the contaminated surfaces. The infected surfaces can be highly contagious and therefore should be cleaned by using a solution of bleach with water which has 1 part of household bleach and 100 parts of water. One should wear gloves while cleaning the contaminated surfaces. The hepatitis A virus can also be inactivated by the cleaning solutions that contain quaternary ammonium and/or hydrochloric acid (HCl). Many toilet cleaners also have the necessary concentration of HCl and can be useful.
5. Heat treatment of food
Food and water can also get infected by hepatitis A virus. The contamination of the food products by hepatitis A virus can occur at any time during their production, cultivation or processing, distribution and preparation. You can heat the food at a temperature of 85 degree celsius or 185 degree Fahrenheit to kill the hepatitis viruses that might be present in them.
You should also avoid seafoods (like oysters and shellfish) that have come from areas which has questionable sanitation levels. Such foods can contain the hepatitis A virus and other harmful microorganisms as well which can be very dangerous to your health.
6. Prevention for travelers
Those who travel frequently are more at risk of getting the hepatitis A infection. Therefore, the travelers should take precautions like avoiding consuming dairy products, not eating undercooked or completely raw fish or meat, avoiding sliced food that might have been washed by using contaminated water, not buying food from the street food vendors, eating heated food that is hot to touch, using carbonated bottled water for drinking and washing teeth, and getting vaccination for hepatitis A (and if possible, B) before traveling to any country or place which has frequent outbreaks of the disease. The travelers should also peel the fresh fruits themselves and then eat them. Boiling water for 1 minute can also make it safe drinking and therefore water should be first boiled and then cooled to optimum temperature so that it is free of micro-organisms and impurity.
7. Use of immune globulin (IG)
If the patient has undergone the exposure to hepatitis A virus in the last 2 weeks or so, then immune globulin is effective up to 90% in preventing the occurrence of clinical hepatitis A infection. IG has enhanced efficacy when it is administered during the early incubation periods. The administration of IG in the later incubation period only reduces the force of the clinical expression of the hepatitis A infection. ACIP or The Advisory committee on Immunization Practices has recommended IG only for the post exposure cases. If the hepatitis A vaccination has been recommended, then it can also be administered at the same time.