Worldwide, 300 million people are living with viral hepatitis. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will be lost. On World Hepatitis Day, 28 July, people from across the world took action to raise awareness to find the “missing millions”. At HygieneFoodSafety.org we are adding to this call to highlight the risk of food poisoning through Hepatitis A, a food virus that infects millions worldwide.

During World Hepatitis Day 2019 campaign, WHO is urging all countries and partners to promote the theme “Invest in eliminating hepatitis”. WHO will release new estimates for additional investments needed to achieve globally agreed hepatitis elimination goals by 2030, in the context of the universal health coverage. The host country for World Hepatitis Day 2019 is Pakistan. The global events will be held in Islamabad, Pakistan on 27-28 July 2019.

Hepatitis A Virus

hepatitis A virus

The hepatitis A virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that affect your liver’s ability to function. Hep A infections occur from consuming contaminated food or water, exactly the same way as bacteria.  The main difference is, that the virus is contagious and you can get infected by having close contact with another person that is infected.

Remember, viruses primary function is to replicate!

Mild cases of infection don’t require treatment and usually, your body can resolve the infection itself. Severe cases do result in permanent liver damage.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infections

Hepatitis A infection symptoms take a few weeks to show, while the virus is multiplying in our body. By the time you show symptoms, you’ve likely infected other people.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Low-level fever
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)
  • Loss of appetite

Really not that different from any food poisoning experience.

Who are at risk?

hepatitis A
  • Those with compromised immune-systems.
  • Those who visit/live/work in regions where Hepatitis A is common
  • Those
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • Small children & Pregnant moms

Where do the infections come from?

Hepatitis A’s primary mode of infection is via the faecal-oral route rather than through sneezing and coughing. This means infection occurs from consuming:

  • Contaminated or untreated water
  • Raw shellfish
  • Consuming foods that were handled by an infected person
  • Coming into close contact with an infected individual

World Hepatitis Day is recognized annually on July 28th, the birthday of Dr Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011). Dr Blumberg discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and two years later developed the first hepatitis B vaccine and for these achievements won the Nobel Prize. Organizations around the world, including WHO and CDC, use World Hepatitis Day to raise awareness of the problem, which impacts more than 325 million people worldwide, and what needs to be done to strengthen efforts in prevention, screening and control. This year’s World Hepatitis Day theme from WHO is “Invest in eliminating hepatitis”.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the faecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water.

Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. Antibodies produced in response to hepatitis A infection last for life and protect against reinfection. The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.

hepatitis A

What are the different types of hepatitis occurring around the world?

The five hepatitis viruses – A, B, C, D, and E – are distinct and can spread in different ways, affect different populations, and result in different health outcomes.

  • Hepatitis A: Worldwide, hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. In the United States, hepatitis A is most commonly spread from close personal contact with someone infected, either through having sex, caring for someone who is ill, or using drugs with others. Hepatitis A does not cause a chronic, lifelong infection and is rarely fatal, but it can cause serious symptoms. Vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A. However, good hand hygiene, improved sanitation, and increased food safety can also prevent hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis B: Globally, the hepatitis B virus is most commonly spread from an infected mother to her baby at birth and among unvaccinated children. People can also become infected from contact with blood and other body fluids through injection drug use, unsterile medical equipment, and sexual contact. Hepatitis B is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, but is also high in the Amazon region of South America, the southern parts of eastern and central Europe, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Hepatitis B can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, chronic illness. If infected at birth or during early childhood, people are more likely to develop a chronic infection, which can lead to liver cirrhosis or even liver cancer. Getting the hepatitis B vaccine is the most effective way to prevent hepatitis B. WHO recommends that all infants receive the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, followed by 2 to 3 additional shots. In many parts of the world, widespread infant vaccination programs have led to dramatic declines of new hepatitis B cases.
  • Hepatitis C: The hepatitis C virus is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. People can get infected through sharing any equipment used to prepare and inject drugs and through unsafe medical injections and other medical procedures. Hepatitis C can also spread, although rarely, from an infected mother to her child at birth. Hepatitis C can cause both acute and chronic infections, but most people who get infected develop a chronic infection. A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. With new treatments, over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be cured within 2 to 3 months, reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis. The first step for people living with hepatitis C to benefit from treatments is to get tested and linked to care. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, but research in this area is ongoing.
  • Hepatitis D: The hepatitis D virus is spread through contact with infected blood. Hepatitis D only occurs in people who are already infected with the hepatitis B virus. People who are not already infected with hepatitis B can prevent hepatitis D by getting vaccinated against hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis E: The hepatitis E virus is spread mainly through contaminated drinking water.  However, pregnant women infected with hepatitis E are at considerable risk of mortality from this infection. Hepatitis E is rare in the United States, but is found worldwide, with the highest number of infections in East and South Asia. Improved water quality and sanitation can help prevent new cases of hepatitis E. – CDC