The hepatitis A virus (HAV) and the hepatitis E virus (HEV), respectively, cause these infections. The virus is usually transmitted through the feces of an infected person.
Hepatitis A and E Infection Information
As with other hepatitis viruses, these germs specifically attack the liver, inflaming it and causing it to swell. Both HAV and HEV infections can cause jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin; also called icterus), abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and fatigue, but either can occur without jaundice (so-called anicteric hepatitis), as well.
Hepatitis A and hepatitis E are short-term infections that go away without treatment, and once you have recovered from them, you can't get them again. The infections often have no symptoms.
HAV and HEV are found in the feces of an infected person and are often spread through inadequately sanitized water supplies. Both viruses can also be transmitted when an infected person skips washing his or her hands after using the restroom and then handles food or eating utensils.
Who's at Risk for Hepatitis A and E?
In the developing world, 100 percent of people have been infected with HAV by the age of 10 because of the lack of adequate sanitation and sewage systems; in the developed world, as much as 50 percent of the population has had hepatitis A by the age of 50.
High-risk groups for HAV infection include people who live with an HAV-infected person, people who have had sex with an HAV-infected person, sexually active homosexual men, people with hemophilia or other blood-clotting problems, people with liver disease, drug users, travelers to countries where HAV is prevalent (information is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Travelers' Health Web site, www.cdc.gov/travel), and those living in areas of the world with ongoing outbreaks (visit www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/a/index.htm for more information).
Hepatitis E is not prevalent in the United States, but travelers to countries with inadequate water sanitation systems can run into this infection. Pregnant women, especially those in their third trimester, are at greatest risk for experiencing severe complications from HEV infection. In addition, recent information has suggested that HEV can be transmitted to people through contact with animal hosts, such as pigs.
Defensive Measures Against Hepatitis A and E
Being a diligent hand washer gives vital protection against both HAV and HEV. Wash up after you use the bathroom or change a diaper and before you prepare a meal.
Getting vaccinated against HAV is your best defense. The CDC recommends anyone older than 12 months and especially those at high risk of being in contact with HAV get the vaccine. If you come into contact with HAV and have not been vaccinated, you can receive protection from developing the disease through immune globulin, but it must be given within two weeks of contact.
There is no vaccine or immune globulin for hepatitis E, but you can protect yourself by observing safe practices for eating and drinking while traveling.
Most hepatitis B and D infections go away without treatment and don't cause complications, but some sufferers develop chronic hepatitis. Keep reading to learn about treating and preventing hepatitis B and D.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.