Hepatitis A (HAV)
What is it?
Hepatitis A is a virus that causes inflammation (swelling) of the liver. There may be no symptoms, but if there are, they usually last one to two weeks but can last longer.
How do you get it?
Hepatitis A is most often passed on through when playing with an HAV infected person’s arse during sex
Hepatitis A is also frequently passed on through every day activities—mostly by using eating and drinking utensils previously handled by an infected person, sharing cigarettes, a joint or bong, or by eating infected shellfish.
People are infectious for around three weeks, starting two weeks before they develop symptoms to about a week afterwards.
What are the symptoms or signs?
Symptoms of hepatitis A infection may include:
- mild flu-like symptoms
- nausea and sometimes vomiting
- abdominal pain
- joint and muscle pain
- yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice),
- rapid weight loss
- mild headache
- dark urine (pee) and pale coloured faeces (shit)
Symptoms can take between two and seven weeks to appear but the infection will usually clear itself from your body within a month. On rare occasions people can be sick for several months.
Hepatitis A is diagnosed with a blood test. Once you have had hepatitis A, antibodies will be detected in your blood. Most people will become immune to hepatitis A once they have had it, meaning that it is unlikely that they will get it again.
Can it be treated?
There is no treatment for hepatitis A. Bed-rest and drinking plenty of fluids are recommended. In severe cases people will need to go to hospital.
How can it be prevented?
There is a vaccination course (injections) available for hepatitis A. It is free to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in some states and territories. Two doses of the vaccine are required. The second dose is given six to 12 months after the first injection. (There is also a hepatitis A and B combination vaccination available. Three doses of the vaccine are required; the second dose after one month, and the third dose, six months after the first vaccination.)
The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to be vaccinated. Good hygienic practice like washing your hands after using the toilet and before and after sex, and using dental dams for rimming, are also helpful.
Hepatitis A & HIV
If you are HIV-positive, one of the consequences of also having a hep A infection may be having to go off anti-HIV medication. Many HIV drugs pass through the liver and so cannot be tolerated during acute hepatitis infection. Getting immunised is a sensible move if you have HIV because the vaccination is not a 'live' vaccine, and so is very safe for people with HIV.