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Hepatitis A

Please click the frequently asked questions below for further information and IPC precautions required:

  • What is Hepatitis A?

    Hepatitis A is a member of Picornaviridae family of viruses and causes infectious hepatitis. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected.

  • Why is this important?

    If NIAS staff are aware that the patient has a suspected or confirmed case this should be communicated to the Control Room (Emergency or Non-emergency as appropriate) and the staff in the receiving unit when transferring the patient to ensure effective patient care and management.

  • How does it spread?

    The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. The hepatitis A virus is spread when someone ingests the virus (even in amounts too small to see) through:

    Person-to-person contact:

    Hepatitis A can be spread from close, personal contact with an infected person, such as through certain types of sexual contact (like oral-anal sex), caring for someone who is ill, or using drugs with others. Hepatitis A is very contagious, and people can even spread the virus before they feel sick.

    Eating contaminated food or drink:

    Contamination of food with the hepatitis A virus can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking. Contamination of food and water happens more often in countries where hepatitis A is common. Although uncommon, foodborne outbreaks have occurred in the United States from people eating contaminated fresh and frozen imported food products.

    Who is at risk for hepatitis A?

    Although anyone can get hepatitis A, certain groups of people are at higher risk for getting infected and for having severe disease if they do get hepatitis A including:

    • International travellers
    • Men who have sex with men
    • People who use or inject drugs (all those who use illegal drugs)
    • People with occupational risk for exposure
    • People who anticipate close personal contact with an international adoptee
    • People experiencing homelessness
  • What are the main symptoms of Hepatitis A?

    Not everyone with hepatitis A has symptoms. Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children. If symptoms develop, they usually appear 2 to 7 weeks after infection. Symptoms usually last less than 2 months, although some people can be ill for as long as 6 months.

    If symptoms develop, they can include:

    • Yellow skin or eyes
    • Not wanting to eat
    • Upset stomach
    • Throwing up
    • Stomach pain
    • Fever
    • Dark urine or light- coloured stools
    • Diarrhoea
    • Joint pain
    • Feeling tired
  • IPC Precautions
    • Contact precautions should be used
    • Hand Hygiene should be completed as per the 5 moments in line with usual practice.
    • Eye protection should always be risk assessed and used with any patient where there is a risk of splashes including spitting and productive coughing.
    • Gloves and Aprons should be worn
    • The patient should be encouraged to complete hand hygiene particularly after using the toilet / changing nappies.
    • Laundry should be treated as contaminated, placed into an alginate bag and placed into a red laundry bag.
  • What cleaning is required?

    All equipment and the ambulance should have an in-between patient clean, paying particular attention to touch points.

  • Do staff need prophylaxis or follow up?

    Hepatitis A post-exposure prophylaxis is not usually indicated when a single casehas occurred in a work place or hospital / healthcare setting. Transmission of Hepatitis A is generally limited to household-type close contacts.

    Staff do not need to be excluded from work.

    The IPC will help line manager risk assess individual cases for Occupational Health referral if required.