Hepatitis A is a viral disease with a fecal/oral route of transmission. Simply put, if an infected food handler does not wash their hands after using the restroom, there is a chance of passing the disease.
Hepatitis A is a common disease caused by a virus that affects the liver. It is sometimes called Infectious Hepatitis. Symptoms usually start with weakness, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, and abdominal discomfort. These symptoms are often followed by jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), coffee-colored urine and pale-colored bowel movement. Generally, symptoms begin about 30 days after exposure to the virus, although this may range from 15 to 20 days.
The illness ranges from very mild with no symptoms, to mild or moderate symptoms lasting only a week or two, to an illness severe enough to require going to the hospital. Young children often do not have symptoms and their infection may not be noticed. Elderly persons are more likely to have serious illness. Deaths due to Hepatitis A are rare.
There is no treatment for hepatitis A. You must prevent it.
The virus is spread from person-to-person when there is close personal contact. Specifically, spread occurs in households, day care or by sexual contact. Spread among small children occurs because of contact with feces.
In addition, the virus is spread when someone eats or drinks food contaminated with feces (bowel movement) from an infected person. This most often occurs when an infected person fails to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food.
Outbreaks of hepatitis A usually involve contaminated water or food. This happens when contaminated food is undercooked or not cooked after handling. The foods involved are often sliced meats, salads or undercooked shellfish. Swimming in contaminated water can also cause infection.
A person with hepatitis A is most likely to spread the disease to others ten days before feeling sick until four days after the onset of jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes).
Most people do not spread the disease after the first week of jaundice.
Hepatitis A is NOT spread by sneezing or contact with saliva.
Handwashing: Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water:
A medicine called Immune Serum Globulin (ISG) can be given to prevent disease if it is given within the first two weeks after exposure. ISG should be given to these contacts:
ISG is NOT needed for contacts in the usual office, school or factory setting.
If you have any questions or concerns, please call the Johnston County Health Department directly.