Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver caused by HAV (Hepatitis A Virus). The virus is transmitted through contaminated beverages and foods or through direct contact with infected people.
It is different from viral hepatitis B and C in two aspects: its mode of transmission, which is mainly oral-faecal, and the fact that it never becomes chronic, that is, a complete recovery is possible.
Its course is often asymptomatic. Sometimes after about 15-45 days of contact with the virus, symptoms such as: tiredness, abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) may occur.
During the course of the disease, itching, urine of a dark colour and light stools may also appear.
The infection can occur through the consumption of contaminated water or through the consumption of raw or undercooked food. Poor personal or environmental hygiene or failure to comply with basic hygiene rules when preparing food encourages its transmission.
The virus can be found in the stool of infected people 7-10 days before symptoms occur and up to a week later. Rarely, cases of infection have occurred through blood transfusions, also because the virus is present in the bloodstream only for a few days.
The average duration of the infection is about two weeks, but it can also be as long as ten weeks. Its progression is usually uneventful, and after healing the subject acquires permanent immunity.
In rare cases, however, especially after the age of 50, the infection can be fulminant, reaching a mortality rate of 80% in these cases.
The virus is present all over the world, although mostly in Southern areas. Approximately 1.4 million cases are estimated each year and it is mainly children who are affected.
Currently, Italy is considered a country with a medium-low endemicity thanks to the improvements in hygienic and socio-economic conditions in recent decades, which have led to a decrease in the spread of the virus.
However, during 1992, 1994 and 1997, there were epidemics in Italy associated with the consumption of raw seafood. Moreover, in 2013 there was also an epidemic in Europe induced by the consumption of frozen berries.
In 2016, the incidence of infection was estimated at 0.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and the most affected age groups were those between the ages of 15 and 54.
The foods that are most often implicated in cases of Hepatitis A virus infection are:
Unfortunately, it is not possible to recognise food contaminated by pathogenic micro-organisms:
contaminated food shows no changes in colour, smell, appearance or taste.
Click on the button below to read the rules on foods to avoid and behaviours to be adopted
to reduce the risk of contracting diseases of microbiological origin transmitted by food.