How food is handled is a critical aspect of food safety. There are many bacterium, viruses, parasites, and toxins which can impact food safety. Hepatitis A is one such virus. Firstly, it is important to distinguish the difference between the different types of Hepatitis. There are five classes of hepatitis, Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
The virus is usually spread when an uninfected or unvaccinated person ingests food or water that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person. The virus then enters the body and affects the hepatic system, namely the liver, causing inflammation. Hepatitis A and E viruses usually cause only acute, or short-term, infections. Your body in most instances can fight off the infection on its own and it goes away.
Most people that contract Hepatitis A will recover with lifelong immunity save a small percentage who can die from fulminant hepatitis. When vacationing to countries with poor sanitation, hygiene and/or lack of safe water it is advisable to obtain a vaccine or refrain from drinking or consuming contaminated food or water. The vaccine does prevent Hepatitis A and in the case of exposure, the vaccine can be administered within 14 days to prevent full blown Hepatitis A once an individual has been exposed.
There are major stages of Hepatitis: Stage 1 is mild fibrosis Stage 2: mild to moderate fibrosis Stage 3: bridging fibrosis or scarring that has spread to different parts of the liver Stage 4: cirrhosis or severe scarring. Hepatitis A is the mildest form of the Hepatitis virus.
The average incubation period for Hepatitis A is 25-28 days and can range as high as 50 days. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, jaundice, and gastrointestinal pain. If you become ill with hepatitis A you can not handle food and must remain outside of the food preparation/service environment until you receive a clearance note from a physician.
Preventing Hepatitis A is critical and preventative measures include safe water supply, improved sanitation, food safety training, proper handwashing, and vaccination if desired. Ensuring food safety is paramount and knowledge of preventative measures is key.