Hepatitis A is a disease affecting the liver, and caused by the Hepatitis A virus (abbreviated HAV). Only 3 out of 4 people with hepatitis A have symptoms. Those symptoms may include:
Hepatitis A can be prevented by good hygiene and sanitation. Vaccination is also available, and is recommended in areas where the prevalence of hepatitis A is high. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1991 reported a low mortality rate of 4 deaths per 1000 cases for the general population but a higher rate of 17.5 per 1000 in those aged 50 and over.
Hepatitis A outbreaks still occur in developed countries and are usually traced to unsanitary conditions at restaurants, including but not limited to employees failing to wash their hands after restroom breaks. The most widespread Hepatitis A outbreak in American history afflicted at least 640 people (killing four) in northeastern Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania in late 2003. In November of that year, the outbreak was blamed on tainted green onions (imported from Mexico) at a restaurant in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
Ways to prevent hepatitis A include the following:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water before preparing or eating food, and after sexual activity.
- Keep bathrooms clean and disinfected after every use.
- Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating.
- Drink water from approved sources only.
Cooking Merit Badge Pamphlet, Boy Scouts of America, Irving, TX, 2004 ISBN 0-8395-3349-7
Last updated: 05-21-2005 14:54:33