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Watch What You Eat: Hepatitis A Foods to Avoid

Watch What You Eat: Hepatitis A Foods to Avoid

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a virus that attacks the liver and causes a disease that ranges from mild to severe. It is acquired through eating contaminated food and/or water as well as through direct contact with an infected individual. As this is the case, there are certain hepatitis A foods to avoid.

Infection with hepatitis A virus, or HAV, mostly associated with:

  • Lack of clean water
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Poor hygiene

Clean water supply, adherence to food safety measures, sanitation, washing of hands and getting a hepatitis A vaccine can combat the illness.

What are its symptoms?

Hepatitis A is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever
  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Tiredness

Infected people who do not show symptoms can still transmit the virus to others. It may take up to two weeks before symptoms appear. The virus can also be present in a person’s body for 15 to 45 days before symptoms manifest.

The upside is that most people who get sick with the virus recover and develop antibody immunity. Only a small proportion of infected individuals die from what is called fulminant hepatitis, or fulminant hepatic failure. This condition is irreversible and develops rapidly in a matter of days or weeks.

Hepatitis A foods to avoid: What foods can be sources of hepatitis A?

Unpeeled or uncooked vegetables and fruits, shellfish (such as oysters or clams) and contaminated ice and water are hepatitis A foods to avoid.

In the Philippines, street foods are fan favorites, particularly isaw (grilled pig intestines), betamax (coagulated chicken blood cut into squares and skewered) and barbecue, among others. These are often sold on sidewalks. According to experts, these may cause diseases in the intestinal tract.

Microbiologist Windell Rivera from the University of the Philippines says that raw meat and poultry—the meats with which these street foods are cooked—are prone to contamination by certain bacteria. For instance, salmonella and listeria can contaminate poultry.

In the case of street foods where different meats are cooked or grilled on one apparatus, cross-contamination of bacteria is possible. Meats cooked in the same wok or grill are examples of hepatitis A foods to avoid.

Rivera added that bacteria may produce toxins which leads to gastrointestinal disease. In some instances, improperly cooked street meats can infect a person with hepatitis A. In severe cases, even kidney failure can occur.

Hepatitis A foods to avoid: How do we practice safe food handling?

The United States Food and Drug Administration recommends the following steps to avoid contamination:

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw food.
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom or changing a baby’s diaper.
  • Clean the inner walls and shelves of refrigerators as well as countertops, cutting boards and utensils. Sanitize them with a solution of a tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water and then dry with clean cloth or paper towel.

Experts advise restaurants and retailers to follow similar precautions, and to conduct regular cleaning and sanitizing of their premises and materials.

Key takeaways

Hepatitis A is a virus that causes liver disease, from which most infected people recover and become immune for life. A person can become infected through the ingestion of contaminated food and water. Some hepatitis A foods to avoid include unwashed fruits and vegetables, and raw or uncooked meats and shellfish like oysters or clams. In the Philippines, eating improperly cooked street food can cause bacterial infections as well as hepatitis A. Authorities recommend hand washing after handling raw foods and rigorous cleaning of food preparation surfaces and storage.

Learn more about Foodborne Infections here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Louise Nichole Logarta Updated 3 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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