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Swine flu, Mad cow disease, Covid, Monkeypox… and now HEPATITIS… WHAT is next? Should we worry? We are living in a synaptic world, fully connected which exacerbates the fast spread of diseases, viruses, and pathogens! The rise of infectious diseases highlights the importance of globally and locally prioritizing public health. Where do we stand in terms of FOOD SAFETY? Not all viruses cause foodborne illnesses, but unfortunately, Hepatitis A is considered a waterborne and foodborne gastrointestinal or GI virus.
Hepatitis is a known term used to describe inflammation in the liver. Usually caused by consuming contaminated food and/or water, resulting in liver damage or a viral infection. There are several types of Hepatitis, some of which will pass without any serious harm, while others can be long-lasting (chronic) and cause scarring in the liver (cirrhosis), loss of liver function, and in some cases, liver cancer. The different types are Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, Alcoholic Hepatitis, and Autoimmune Hepatitis. Luckily Hepatitis A (the most frequent one nowadays) is unlikely to cause chronic liver failure. So, if you are wondering how to avoid getting Hepatitis A, here's everything you need to know.
The usual incubation period for Hepatitis A is around 14-28 days. the symptoms if visible can range from mild to severe and include:
Not everyone infected will get symptoms!
Adults tend to have signs and symptoms more often than children. Beware! Hepatitis A sometimes relapses, so the person who just recovered may fall sick again, followed by recovery.
Any person who hasn’t taken the HAV vaccine* or anyone who hasn’t been previously infected can become infected.
In crowded, unsanitary conditions, HAV can be spread quickly and cause outbreaks by exposure to contaminated water or food. It’s highly likely to happen through unwashed hands when an infected person prepares food, by close personal contact, or even caring for someone who is ill. This demonstrates how contagious this virus is and how quickly it may spread.
Poor food safety standards in agricultural production such as improper irrigation and the lack of food safety measures in the kitchens have been found to increase the transmission of Hepatitis A. It is of utmost importance to wash and disinfect all food and food contact surfaces using suitable sanitizers and clean water. Hepatitis A, on the other hand, is frequently transmitted from person to person. Hand washing is also essential on a regular basis.
The most effective approaches to control hepatitis A and prevent foodborne diseases are improved sanitation, food safety, and immunisation.
Hepatitis A has no specific treatment; instead, it is treated to alleviate symptoms such as pain, itching, and nausea. It may take several weeks or months for a person to fully recover. After becoming infected with HAV, a person produces antibodies that protect him from becoming infected again.
Following appropriate cleanliness habits, whether at home or in a restaurant, is the key to avoiding Hepatitis A. Choose your food providers carefully and trust your sources; if in doubt, get advice from specialists and experts in the industry. We can all contribute to lowering foodborne illness and protecting public health if we all do our share to maintain proper hygiene and cleanliness.
*Vaccine is usually given at young age, starting one year old and its effects can last for at least twenty years or even a lifetime.
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