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Hepatitis A Immunity Testing

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About Our Hepatitis A Immunity Testing

Note: Fasting is not required for this test.

This blood test panel is used to identify if an individual is immune to the hepatitis A virus (HAV) by detecting the presence of both IgM and IgG antibodies specific to HAV. 

What Is Immunity Testing?

Immunity tests evaluate the level of specific immunoglobulins (antibodies) in the blood. The immune system creates antibodies to fight off antigens, which may be viruses, bacteria, or toxins. The body produces antibodies specific to each antigen, meaning antibodies for hepatitis A are different from antibodies to hepatitis B.

This immunity panel measures two types of antibodies for the hepatitis A virus: 

  • Immunoglobulin M (IgM): The first antibody the body produces to fight a new infection. 
  • Immunoglobulin G (IgG): A long-term protective antibody that remains in the body to shield itself against bacterial and viral infections.

This panel contains two tests: one that checks for immunity1) and the other for a current infection.2) By detecting the presence of both HAV IgG and IgM antibodies, this blood test panel is used to confirm whether or not an individual has a recent or current hepatitis A infection, or if they have been immunized for hepatitis A. 

What Do the Hepatitis A Test Results Mean?

The test may indicate the following:

  • Positive IgM results indicate that the antibody was found in your blood, meaning you may have an acute or recent HAV infection.
  • Negative IgM results indicate the antibody was not found in your blood, meaning there is no active infection.

  • Positive IgG results indicate that the antibody was found in your blood, which means that you have been exposed to the virus in the past and have either developed immunity to HAV or have been vaccinated for it.
  • Negative IgG results indicate that the antibody was not found in your blood, meaning that you have not had a past HAV infection nor have been vaccinated or immunized to the virus.

What Is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is an extremely contagious, viral disease of the liver. Hepatitis causes the liver to become inflamed, which can cause it to behave at less than optimal levels. 

HAV is commonly transmitted through the ingestion of fecal matter, even if an individual only consumes microscopic amounts. Its effects can range from a mild illness that lasts weeks to a severe illness that lasts for months.3) It usually cures itself, but the most severe cases of hepatitis A can cause liver failure and may be fatal, although this is rare. 

What Does it Mean if I am Immune to Hepatitis A?

Once your body has come into contact with the hepatitis A virus (either by having the disease or the vaccine), you develop the IgG class of antibodies, providing you with immunity for the rest of your life. If you have these antibodies, it means that you are immune and can not get the hepatitis A infection again. 

If your test results indicate that IgM antibodies were found, that means you have a current acute hepatitis A infection, and therefore were not previously made immune to the virus. 

Treatment

Usually, the HAV infection clears up on its own so no specific treatment or medication is needed, other than to treat symptoms if they are really bothersome. Making sure you remain well-rested and hydrated is typically all that is required. After a few months, the infection and symptoms should go away, and the body should heal over without any lasting damage to the liver. 

In the case of more severe hepatitis A infections that do not go away, seeking medical assistance from a professional doctor is recommended. 

Symptoms

Hepatitis A does not always show symptoms, but when it does they are usually mild. Symptoms can start appearing as early as two weeks post-exposure or as late as seven weeks. 

Symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea 
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Low fever
  • Joint pain 
  • Jaundice and dark urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Clay-colored stool

How Is Hepatitis A Transmitted?

Hepatitis A can be acquired or spread when an unvaccinated, or not immune, person consumes infected fecal matter. This is most commonly done by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. 

Hepatitis A can also be spread through sexual scenarios where there is oral-anal contact with someone carrying the virus.  

Risk factors for hepatitis A:4)

  • Live with or are caregivers to someone with hepatitis A
  • Have eaten contaminated food or drank contaminated water
  • Travel to areas of low/poor sanitation
  • Share needle/drug equipment
  • Have had sexual contact with someone who has the virus
  • Have eaten food prepared by someone with the virus who doesn't thoroughly wash their hands after using the restroom

What to Do if You’re Not Immune

If you’re not immune to the hepatitis A virus and do not have a current infection, you should look into getting the vaccine. Hepatitis A can be prevented and the best way to do that is by getting the vaccine. It is safe and highly effective, and all it takes is 2 shots, 6 months apart.5)


References:

  1. “Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) Antibody, Total.” LabCorp. https://www.labcorp.com/test-menu/27191/hepatitis-a-virus-hav-antibody-total
  2. “Hepatitis A Antibody, IgM.” LabCorp. https://www.labcorp.com/test-menu/27186/hepatitis-a-antibody-igm
  3. Matheny, Samuel C., and Joe E. Kingery. "Hepatitis A." American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/1201/p1027.html
  4. “Hepatitis A Testing.” LabCorp. https://www.labcorp.com/help/patient-test-info/hepatitis-a-testing
  5. “Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm

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