Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) Total

Hepatitis A virus infected liver

What is Hepatitis A virus total antibody test?

Hepatitis A virus total antibody is a diagnostic examination that looks for the presence of both IgM and IgG antibodies in the blood.  Antibodies are produced by the immune system in the body to spot and neutralize the hepatitis A virus.

Detection of IgG antibodies is particularly a serological indication of Hepatitis A infection in the past or points to the use of vaccination. The HAV total antibody test evaluates the presence of both IgG and IgM antibodies without clear-cut distinction in these two types.

Any alternative names for the Anti HAV Total test?

The hepatitis A virus total antibody test is also known as HAV-Ab IgG, HAV-Ab total, HAV-Ab IgM, Anti-HAV tests.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver causing inflammation and irritation of the organ.  There are 5 types of hepatitis viruses, known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E which trigger the infection.  Only a blood test can point out what type of hepatitis virus has caused the infection since the symptoms of all the hepatitis types of infection are very similar.

What is Hepatitis A virus (HAV)?

Hepatitis A happens to be one of the three most common hepatitis viruses in the world. As the body begins to be infected with the hepatitis A virus, the immune system produces antibodies in response to the infection.

The body at first produces hepatitis A IgM antibodies when the patient is first exposed to the HAV. It takes about 2 to 3 weeks for the IgM antibodies to develop after the initial infection sets in and can be detected before the symptoms of Hepatitis A begin. Victims complain of symptoms usually anywhere from 14 to 50 days from the start of the infection. The IgM antibodies show up in the blood tests usually about 5 to 10 days before patients experience symptoms. The IgM antibodies can be found in the blood for about 3 to 6 months post HAV infection.

Hepatitis A IgG antibodies are produced by the immune system in the body after about one or two weeks following the production of IgM antibodies. The IgG antibodies remain in the system for a lifetime, providing lifelong immunity against HAV.  

What are some of the tell-tale symptoms of Hepatitis A virus?

The symptoms of HAV may begin all of a sudden.  Children can be asymptomatic too along with some adults with no symptoms.

Some adults exhibit very mild symptoms, which may go unnoticed. Yet, such people can also transmit the infection to others. Usually, the older lot exhibits symptoms of HAV as compared to children. Symptoms can be any or all of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Pale colored stools
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • The pale color of the skin
  • Yellow discoloration of eyes and urine 
  • A dull ache in the stomach
  • Low-grade fever

What causes the spread of Hepatitis A virus?

Hepatitis is a food and water-borne disease. This means people can be infected with HAV after consuming beverage, water or food contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis A virus can be found very commonly during outbreaks and epidemics due to the manner in which it spreads.

Infected people can spread the infection just about one week after their exposure. Those who do not exhibit any symptoms are still capable of transmitting the virus.

The hepatitis A virus exists in the feces or stools of those infected. The virus can spread to another through the fecal-oral transmission. This means if someone consumes food or water contaminated with the feces of the affected person, then the infection can easily spread. It is extremely rare that the infection is passed through a contaminated needle, although this possibility cannot be completely ruled out especially among injection drug users.

It takes a few weeks and at times months for the HAV infection to clear.  Patients who have undergone HAV infection develop immunity to the infection. The immunity is usually life-long and only in extremely rare cases does one suffer HAV again.  

Who is prone to the risk of hepatitis A infection?

Developing nations that are wanting in standards of hygiene or are notorious for abysmal sanitation are at high risk for the hepatitis A virus.

The risk of hepatitis A is high among those that are exposed to places where the chance of fecal-oral transmission is high. Such places include rehabilitation institutions, daycare centers, prisons, and hospitals. Those working in the waste management area are also prone to the attack of the hepatitis A virus.

Although, hepatitis A cannot spread merely by being in close proximity to someone having the infection, yet the role of hygiene and sanitation in the prevention of hepatitis A cannot be overemphasized.

Why has the doctor ordered this test for me?

Some of the reasons why your doctor might have asked you to undergo this test are:

  • If you have exhibited symptoms of HAV
  • If you suffer a liver infection and its cause is not clear
  • Homosexuality
  • Intimate physical relations with a HAV infected person
  • If you are in close proximity with an HAV infected person
  • Consumption of contaminated food or water
  • Visiting a place known for increased rate of HAV infection
  • If you are an international traveler
  • Occupation in a hospital
  • Drug use by sharing needles

How is this test performed?

The test is done in a laboratory and a technician usually performs this investigation. This is a simple test that involves drawing a sample of blood from your vein.

To do so, an elastic band is tied around your forearm or hand to help easily spot the vein

A needle is inserted into the vein and blood is drawn into the attached tube. Patients just about feel a slight stinging sensation when the needle pricks the site of the vein to draw out blood

The needle is pulled out and a swab of cotton is pressed against the spot to prevent bleeding and bruising.

Is this procedure risky?

There are no major risks with this procedure although minimal risks such as bruising, bleeding, feeling faint and infection can arise in rare cases. The site can feel a bit sore, which gets better in time.

Is there any major preparation needed for the HAV blood test?

You do not need to prepare for this test. Convey all the information pertaining to your medical history including the medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you consume. This includes medicines that do not need a prescription and any illicit drugs in use.

Do I need to undergo any other tests along with this test?

Your doctor might want to evaluate how your liver is functioning and you may need some other tests. There are other tests for the hepatitis A virus, but the most accurate is the HAV antibody test.

Any factors that might influence the results of this test?

As long as your doctor knows your medical history there can be nothing significant that can affect your test results.

What do my test results mean?

Your healthcare provider can best interpret your test results. The results of this hepatitis A virus test depend upon your medical history, age, gender and the methodology used for the examination. It is best not to assume that the test results imply a problem. You should get the facts ascertained with a qualified medical professional.

If your results are negative, it means the result is normal. The blood tests did not show the presence of IgM and IgG antibodies and you are not having the hepatitis A infection.

If the results are positive, it means either you are actively suffering hepatitis A infection or have suffered from  HAV in the past 6 months.

Can any other factors cause inflammation of the liver other than Hepatitis?

While hepatitis A results in irritation and inflammation of the liver, there are factors other than the HAV that can result in such a condition.

  • Liver infection
  • Alcoholism
  • Medicines
  • Poison
  • Chemicals and toxins
  • Immune system problems

Even though hepatitis A causes liver inflammation, the infection is not chronic and there is no permanent damage. The healing is complete and patients enjoy immunity for a lifetime. Very rarely do hepatitis A victims get infected with the disease again.

How can one prevent Hepatitis A?

The hepatitis A vaccination has helped reduce the incidence of the disease to a large extent and is a powerful prevention mechanism. Some of the prevention strategies include:

  • Ensure the consumption of sterile food and water
  • Avoid sharing of needles
  • Be extra careful with  HAV infected people
  • Maintain high standards of sanitation and hygiene
  • Immune serum globulin treatment within  2 weeks of exposure 

What is a big challenge with respect to Hepatitis A virus?

People can be completely asymptomatic, yet can spread the infection. It is difficult to know when one is infected especially in the absence of symptoms. This poses a huge challenge in hepatitis A prevention.

What is the treatment method followed for Hepatitis A?

Healthcare professionals look at treatment options to alleviate some of the symptoms of HAV, in the absence of specific medicines to cure the infection. If symptoms become severe, such as dehydration, immediate emergency medical care is advised.

IV fluids are generally prescribed to help the patient recover from dehydration.

Any home remedies that can help Hepatitis A?

Few home remedies that can help alleviate symptoms of hepatitis A are:

  • Increase intake of fluids
  • Take ample rest. Do not engage in strenuous physical activities
  • Relax and take things very easy
  • Do not hesitate to seek medical assistance if you feel symptoms are getting worse
  • Completely avoid medicines and drugs that are harmful to the liver for instance drugs that contain acetaminophen
  • Do not drink alcohol as it can worsen hepatitis A symptoms
  • Do not compromise on hygiene, as you can be a powerful transmitter of the virus through the fecal-oral route

How effective is the Hepatitis A vaccine in the prevention of the disease?

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported the effectiveness of vaccines for Hepatitis A since its inception in 1995. The reports point to a 95% decline in hepatitis A rates.

What is the cost of the Anti-hepatitis A Virus Total test in India?

The price of the Anti-hepatitis A Virus Total blood test can vary depending upon the facilities and location where the test is conducted. However, the price can approximately be around INR 1190.

 

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