At a glance
Also known as
Why get tested?
To diagnose an infection with hepatitis A or to evaluate the need for, or the response to, hepatitis A vaccination
When to get tested?
If you have symptoms of an infection with or have been exposed to the hepatitis A
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm
What is being tested?
Hepatitis A is produced in response to an infection with the hepatitis A . Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is one of several various causes of hepatitis, a condition characterised by inflammation and enlargement of the liver. Hepatitis A is one of five "hepatitis viruses" identified so far, including B, C, D, and E that are known to cause the disease.
Hepatitis A is spread through food or water contaminated with the virus or by coming in contact with an infected person. While hepatitis A can cause a severe, disease, it does not cause a infection as do some of the other hepatitis viruses. If you are exposed to hepatitis A, your immune system produces in response to the virus. This test detects hepatitis A antibodies in the blood.
While hepatitis has many different causes, the and the are the same. In hepatitis, the liver is damaged and unable to function normally. It cannot process toxins or waste products such as bilirubin for their removal from the body. During the course of the disease, bilirubin and liver levels in the blood can increase. While tests such as bilirubin or a liver function tests can tell your doctor that you have hepatitis, they will not tell s/he what is causing it. Antibody tests for hepatitis viruses may help determine the cause.
If you are exposed to hepatitis A, your body will first produce hepatitis A antibodies. These antibodies typically develop 2 to 3 weeks after first being infected and persist for about 2 to 6 months. Hepatitis A antibodies are produced within 1 to 2 weeks of the IgM antibodies and usually persist for life. Hepatitis A IgM antibodies develop early in the course of infection. The presence of hepatitis A IgM antibodies suggests acute hepatitis A but is only diagnostic if taken in the right clinical context. A positive hepatitis A IgM together with the presence of grossly abnormal liver function tests demonstrating hepatitis, the presence of symptoms such as nausea, fever, malaise, abdominal discomfort or a history of significant contact with a confirmed case is consistent with acute Hepatitis A. A positive Hepatitis A IgM is also seen in patients who have received the Hepatitis A vaccine in the days or weeks prior to testing and therefore the result should not be interpreted as evidence of acute disease. Testing for immunity to Hepatitis A can also be performed. Acute hepatitis is also caused by a number of other infectious and non-infectious agents and the choice of tests to use depends on the clinical scenario.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is taken by needle from a vein in the arm.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed.
How could I have been infected with the virus without knowing it?
The is found in faeces and contaminated water. You may have eaten raw fruit or vegetables handled by an infected person who did not wash their hands properly or you may have eaten raw or improperly cooked seafood that had fed in contaminated waters. Children are often infected by HAV and either do not become sick or have very mild symptoms such as fever and diarrhoea and are often thought to have ‘flu’.
If I have hepatitis A how long will I be contagious?
You can spread the disease to others from the time you are first infected up until symptoms begin to appear which can be about 4 weeks. Generally adults are contagious for 2 weeks after contracting the disease. Children and people who are may be contagious for up to 6 months.
Is there any way to prevent the disease?
Yes. There is a available. It is recommended for people travelling to specific countries, and for those who have damage to their liver from some other cause.