Now that winter has arrived, many people will travel south in search of sunshine and warmth. South America and the Caribbean are favorite winter destinations for Canadians. One thing to keep in mind when traveling to these regions of the world is the risk of contracting hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is a virus which causes a highly contagious liver infection.
The hepatitis A virus is usually transmitted from person to person. Essentially, a person becomes infected with the virus after eating a tiny amount of contaminated fecal matter.
The spread of hepatitis A is most commonly caused by poor hygiene practices or contaminated water.
The symptoms of hepatitis A usually appear a few weeks after exposure to the virus. Symptoms may include: joint pain; fever; fatigue; abdominal pain; nausea; jaundice; or clay-colored stool.
It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have hepatitis A. Your doctor will be able to detect the presence of the hepatitis virus by taking a simple blood test.
The good news is that most people who are infected with this virus fully recover with no permanent liver damage. In general, mild cases of hepatitis A do not require any form of treatment and resolves on its own with in a few weeks. More severe cases may last several months. At this time, there is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Treatment generally consists of rest and symptom control. Medications that help to reduce pain and nausea may be prescribed.
Like I always say, prevention is the best treatment. Practicing good hygiene, including frequent hand washing, is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of hepatitis A. It is especially important to wash your hands after using the toilet, changing a diaper or before preparing food. There is also a vaccine for hepatitis A that some travelers get before they go on vacation.
It is always a good idea to research the resort or hotel that you are planning on visiting to see if the water is safe to drink and that they have not had any recent hepatitis A outbreaks.
It is good practice to peel and/or wash all fresh fruits and only drink beverages of known purity. Whenever possible, drink only bottled water and use it to brush your teeth. Finally, avoid undercooked or raw meats or fish.
Until next month, drive safely.
Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.