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An Introduction to Hepatitis A.

Exposure to the hepatitis A virus can cause an acute infection of the liver that is typically mild and resolves on its own. [11, 17] The symptoms and duration of illness vary a great deal, with many persons showing no symptoms at all. [11] Fever and jaundice are two of the symptoms most commonly associated with a hepatitis A infection. [17]

It has been written that the “earliest accounts of contagious jaundice are found in ancient China.” [11] According to the CDC:

The first descriptions of hepatitis (epidemic jaundice) are generally attributed to Hippocrates. Outbreaks of jaundice, probably hepatitis A, were reported in the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly in association with military campaigns. Hepatitis A (formerly called infectious hepatitis) was first differentiated epidemiologically from hepatitis B, which has a long incubation period, in the 1940s. Development of serologic tests allowed definitive diagnosis of hepatitis B. In the 1970s, identification of the virus, and development of serologic tests helped differentiate hepatitis A from other types of non-B hepatitis.

Until 2004, hepatitis A was the most frequently reported type of hepatitis in the United States. In the pre-vaccine era, the primary methods used for preventing hepatitis A were hygienic measures and passive protection with immune globulin (IG). Hepatitis A vaccines were licensed in 1995 and 1996. These vaccines provide long-term protection against hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection. [7]

Consequently, hepatitis A is the only common vaccine-preventable foodborne disease in the United States. [7, 12]  This virus is one of five human hepatitis viruses that primarily infect the human liver and cause human illness. [11] Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A does not develop into chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis, which are both potentially fatal conditions, [7, 11, 17] Nonetheless, infection with the hepatitis A virus (HAV) can lead to acute liver failure and death. [12, 17]

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