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Advice on Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an illness caused by a virus. People suffering from the illness feel generally unwell with fever, nausea and abdominal pain followed by jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and dark urine in the late stages. Many people, especially children have no symptoms at all.

You can catch Hepatitis A the following three ways:

  • By swallowing the virus passed on by someone that has Hepatitis A
  • The virus can be picked up from unwashed hands, contaminated food or drink or from dirty toilet seats, handles etc
  • The illness usually starts about one month from being infected and will usually last for 1-2 weeks although in severe cases it can be longer.


How to avoid Hepatitis A

By being very careful about personal hygiene, especially when travelling abroad to destinations such as Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America where it is advisable to:

  • Drink only boiled or bottled water, even for cleaning teeth
  • If you are using water sterilisation tablets make sure that you follow the instructions carefully
  • Avoid food stored or prepared in unhygienic conditions
  • Avoid ice in drinks
  • Avoid unpeeled fruit and salads
  • Always wash your hands before meals and after going to the toilet

A vaccine for Hepatitis A is available for people who often travel to these countries.


Treatment

Most people recover completely from Hepatitis A without any special treatment. It should not be confused with Hepatitis B which is a much more severe illness. You can pass the virus for one or two weeks before you start to feel ill.

One week after the onset of jaundice, cases are usually no longer infectious to others. Once you have recovered, you will not catch Hepatitis A again.

  • Wash hands with soap in warm running water and dry thoroughly
  • Make sure everyone at home has their own towel and flannel
  • Clean toilet seats, flush handles, door handles and taps frequently with hot soapy water and disinfectant solution
  • Soiled clothes and bedding should be washed on their own in the washing machine on the hottest cycle

You should stay away from work or school until at least one week after the onset of jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and all symptoms. If your work involves working with the young, sick or elderly you must tell your employer.

For further advice or information, please do not hesitate to contact the Food Hygiene and Safety Team.

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