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Hepatitis A: Vaccine, Treatment & Prognosis

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) attacks the liver causing an array of uncomfortable symptoms. Read this lesson to learn about the prognosis of this condition, how to treat it, and the possibility of vaccination.

Feelling Ill

Upon returning from her spring break trip from Mexico, Shelby reflects on the special moments she made with her college friends. As she sits on the plane, she thinks back to the week's visit into town where she enjoyed a variety of local foods and specialties. She begins to feel warm and opens the overhead vent to circulate some air. Increasingly uncomfortable, her symptoms begin to get worse and she makes an appointment with her physician as soon as she exits the plane.

Hepatitis A

Shelby is assessed by the physician and has several tests drawn. When the doctor explains that she is positive for the Hepatitis A virus, she is devastated. Immediately suspecting that there is a misunderstanding regarding the prognosis, or likely outcome of the infection, the physician explains that Hepatitis A virus (HAV) can be effectively treated to prevent long-term organ damage.

While it is does not usually become a chronic or ongoing condition, effective treatment strategies to manage symptoms is an important part of the recovery process. Learning that HAV does not usually develop into a chronic condition helps Shelby relax about her diagnosis.

Prevention

Curious to know how she could have prevented the infection, she learns that she could have received a vaccine before she left the country. The vaccine, or medication that can boost immunity to the virus, is usually given to people over the age of 1 year and comes in the form of 2 injections administered 6 months apart. Children should be vaccinated between 1 to 2 years of age but can receive the vaccine later in life as well.

A mother holds her child while a nurse administers the vaccination.
A mother holds her child while a nurse administers the vaccination.

People who have not been vaccinated as children should consider vaccination if:

  • Planning to travel out of the country
  • Have contact with other infected individuals
  • Are exposed to dirty or contaminated water or sewage

Treatment

The virus typically attacks the liver, an organ that plays an important role in metabolic processes and the body's ability to clot blood appropriately. In doing so, the virus can cause the infected individual to experience flu-like symptoms and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, for extended periods of time up to 6 months. To treat her HAV infection, Shelby is instructed to:

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