Infectious Agent

Submitted By mushuann
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What is the infectious agent (pathogen) that causes this disease?

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes irritation and swelling of the liver. Hepatitis A is the most common strain amongst the several types of hepatitis infections. It is easily spread by close contact with someone who is infected. The virus causes the body to create specific antibodies to fight the infection, which are called immunoglobulin M and immunoglobulin G, or IgM and IgG, respectively. These antibodies, along with elevated liver enzymes, are easily detectable in blood tests, which is the primary way that hepatitis A is diagnosed. A blood test will usually be positive for IgM before it is positive for IgG, and in this way doctors can monitor the progress of the disease. Hepatitis A can be bothersome, but it is very rarely ever fatal, and often goes unnoticed or is mistaken for something else. With proper preventative measure people can significantly reduce their risk of contracting hepatitis A.

How is this infectious agent transmitted through food and water?

Hepatitis A is caused by a viral infection. This viral infection is easily spread through contact with microscopic amounts of fecal matter in foods and drinks. This can occur in a number of ways. Often fruits and vegetables can be contaminated during the growing or harvesting process. Seafood can be contaminated in the water if the water is polluted, or food service workers can spread the disease by not properly washing their hands. Hepatitis A can also be spread by some sexual practices. There are some people who have a higher risk for contracting hepatitis A than others: International travelers, specifically those who recently traveled to Central America, South America or certain parts of Asia. IV drug users. Those who live in group facilities such as nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and prisons. Those who work in the health care, sewage or food industries.

What is an example of a real life outbreak of this foodborne illness in the United States?

Mild cases of hepatitis A often go unnoticed by the person infected. Because it is so easily spread, it is not uncommon to see wide spread outbreaks in facilities such as daycare centers or schools. After infection, there is a 2 to 6 week incubation period, which can make it difficult to pinpoint the source of the infection if it came from a public place. Most people who are infected with hepatitis A recover completely and experience no lasting effects. Rarely, hepatitis A becomes fulminant, which is means that the condition becomes life threateningly severe very quickly. A vaccine is available for hepatitis A. The vaccine is given in two doses, the second booster vaccine being given six months after the first dose. The hepatitis A vaccine is on the schedule of vaccines for infants and should be given at a year old. If you have been affected by Hepatitis A, but have recovered from the infection, you no longer need to be vaccinated. Once you have recovered from hepatitis A, you become immune to the virus for the rest of your life. There are certain individuals who should not receive the hepatitis A vaccine, which include: People who suffer an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Women who are pregnant or nursing. Children less than 1 year of age. Those suffering from an illness or fever should not receive the vaccine until they have recovered.

What are the clinical symptoms, duration of the disease, and treatment if any?

The symptoms associated with hepatitis A are usually quite mild and many people with