In most of the developed world, hepatitis A testing isn’t a common procedure. That’s because most people are vaccinated for the disease early in life and aren’t exposed to it unless they travel to a developing country.
In fact, Hepatitis A is one of the milder strands of the hepatitis virus:
- Hepatitis A causes death in fewer than .5 percent of people infected;
- 90 percent of those infected in childhood never have signs or symptoms;
- Of those infected in adulthood, only 10 – 15 percent have multiple outbreaks.
Q. What Is the Current Status of Hepatitis A?
A: Hepatitis A is common in parts of the world without high hygiene standards or secure access to clean water. In developed countries, hepatitis A testing is usually only performed on those who show symptoms, have traveled to a developing country, or were not vaccinated for the disease in childhood.
Q. How Is Hepatitis A Transmitted?
A: This type of hepatitis is usually spread through contact with contaminated water or the feces of a person who is contaminated. This is why hepatitis A has higher rates of infection in countries without modern plumbing.
Q. How is Hepatitis A Treated?
A: The good news is that contact with Hepatitis A in childhood (whether through environmental exposure or a vaccine) gives a person long-term immunity to the disease. For this reason, the acute form of the disease is seen most often in adults who have no immunity and contract the disease during travel.
Because the disease usually diminishes on its own, hepatitis A treatment addresses mainly the symptoms.
Q. What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?
A: Many people infected never go in for hepatitis A testing because they show no symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they generally hit within two to six weeks of infection and include:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing) of the skin or eyes
- Amber-colored urine
- Clay-colored feces.
Q. Is Hepatitis A an STD?
A: It’s rare for Hepatitis A to be spread sexually, and most STD testing facilities don’t check for the disease. In fact, the hepatitis A test is not classified as an STD test at all. If your symptoms seem to match those for hepatitis A and you meet the criteria for people at risk, consult your doctor about hepatitis A testing.