When I was in fifth grade, a friend and fellow classmate came down with hepatitis A.
I knew that he enjoyed exploring the sewers around his home looking for lizards.
Since there was no vaccine against Hepatitis A at that time, I had to have a big shot of immunoglobulin to prevent me from catching it from him.
Fortunately, we now have a vaccine against this incurable condition that has afflicted Kentucky especially hard this year.
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that attacks mainly the liver. It is caught by exposure to the bowel movements of those who have the disease.
An infected person not washing his hands properly and then touching food that others eat is one of the main ways that this happens. Water and other items can also be contaminated with the virus.
The hepatitis A virus can survive freezing. Food needs to be heated above 185 degrees for at least a minute to kill it.
Properly chlorinating water and using an appropriate fresh bleach solution on surfaces also can destroy it.
Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, joint pain and loss of appetite. Jaundice, where the skin or eyes turn yellow, can also occur.
Bowel movements can become clay-colored, and the urine can become dark if this happens.
Younger children may not have any symptoms with the infection, but if they do, symptoms more commonly include severe stomach pain and diarrhea.
There are usually 2-6 weeks from exposure to the time any symptoms of the disease start showing up.
Symptoms can last anywhere from less than 2 months up to 6 months in some people. On rare occasions hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death (mostly in older people).
Although there is no cure for hepatitis A, it can usually be prevented. The vaccine against hepatitis A is routinely given to toddlers but can be given to most people a year of age and older.
The vaccine consists of a series of two doses given at least six months apart. Side effects include local reactions with redness and tenderness, a low-grade fever, headache and fatigue.
For those who have been exposed to a known case, the vaccine can be given to those up to 40 years of age.
This usually will prevent the person from coming down with the disease if given in time.
Immunoglobulin injections can be given to those less than a year of age and those over 40, as well as for a few higher-risk groups.
Dr. Charles Ison, F.A.A.P.
As seen in October 2018 issue of Lexington Family Magaizine