A Brief Overview of Hepatitis A Virus

Dr. Michell Shiffman of Bon Secours' Liver Institute of Virginia

Dr. Michell Shiffman of Bon Secours' Liver Institute of Virginia

Viral hepatitis A (HAV) is a self limited disease which can cause mild or severe liver injury.  HAV is acquired by eating food that is contaminated with HAV.  HAV can also be spread from person-to-person by a person with acute HAV.

The average adult who develops HAV has several days of flu-like symptoms progressive fatigue elevated liver enzymes in the blood and jaundice.  In all patients the disease is self limited.  No patients develop chronic HAV.  It lasts for several days to several weeks before the liver enzymes return to normal and jaundice resolves.  Fatigue may last for an additional several weeks to months.  After the illness resolves the patient develops antibodies which will prevent any future HAV infection.

The severity of the liver injury in HAV increases with increasing age.  Patients greater than 50 years of age can have such a severe case of HAV that they may develop liver failure and die unless they receive an emergency liver transplant.  Patients with underlying chronic liver disease and especially cirrhosis are also at high risk to develop liver failure if they become infected with HAV.

HAV is uncommon in the USA but is very common in many counties of the world where Americans vacation.  This includes most Caribbean Islands, Mexico and may part of Africa and Asia.  Americans who travel to these areas of the world should therefore be vaccinated against HAV to prevent them from developing an infection.  In addition, all patients with chronic liver disease and especially all patients with cirrhosis should also be vaccinated against HAV.  HAV vaccination is highly effective.  Over 98% of persons respond to 2 doses of vaccine administered one month apart.  Vaccination against of all patients with chronic liver disease against HAV is routinely recommended and provided at the Liver Institute of Virginia.

+ Learn about The Liver Institute of Virginia
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About Dr.MLShiffman

Dr. Mitchell Shiffman is the Bon Secours expert on liver disease and liver treatments for Virginia. Prior to joining Bon Secours, Dr. Shiffman was a professor of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, VA. He was the Chief of the Hepatology Section and Medical Director of the Liver Transplant Program at the VCU Medical Center from 1989 until 2009. During his 20 years at the VCU Medical Center Dr. Shiffman built and directed one of the most respected and productive hepatology programs in the United States. Dr. Shiffman is recognized as one of the world’s leaders in the field of Hepatology. His particular area of research is viral hepatitis. He has been involved with and/or directed numerous clinical trials to develop new and better treatments for viral hepatitis B and C. Dr. Shiffman is a regular speaker on the treatment of viral hepatitis, the management of various liver disorders, and issues related to liver transplantation at regional, national and international society meetings. He has published over 200 articles in medical journals related to the treatment of liver diseases and has edited two books on this topic. In addition, he has contributed to various HCV educational resources including an HCV educational kit. Dr. Shiffman is also a widely recognized expert consultant to pharmaceutical companies on the treatment of liver disease. Dr. Shiffman holds a Bachelor of Arts from State University of New York at Buffalo, a Master of Science in physiology from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque, N.M. and his Doctor of Medicine from State University of New York Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine and fellowship training in gastroenterology and hepatology at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals in Richmond, VA. Dr. Shiffman is a member of many professional organizations including: the American College of Gastroenterology, American College of Physicians, the American Gastroenterological Association, American Society for the Study of Liver Diseases, American Society of Transplantation, European Association for the Study of the Liver, International Liver Transplantation Society, Richmond Academy of Medicine, Virginia Medical Society and the Virginia Gastrointestinal Society. He was a member of the Board of Trustees with the American College of Gastroenterology from 2003-2009.

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