The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical characteristics of acute hepatitis A during a recent outbreak in Korea. Data of patients diagnosed with acute hepatitis A from 2007 to 2009 were collected from 21 tertiary hospitals retrospectively. Their demographic, clinical, and serological characteristics and their clinical outcomes were analyzed. A total of 4,218 patients (mean age 33.3 yr) were included. The median duration of admission was 9 days. The mean of the highest ALT level was 2,963 IU/L, total bilirubin was 7.3 mg/dL, prothrombin time INR was 1.3. HBsAg was positive in 3.7%, and anti-HCV positive in 0.7%. Renal insufficiency occurred in 2.7%, hepatic failure in 0.9%, relapsing hepatitis in 0.7%, and cholestatic hepatitis in 1.9% of the patients. Nineteen patients (0.45%) died or were transplanted. Complications of renal failure or prolonged cholestasis were more frequent in patients older than 30 yr. In conclusion, most patients with acute hepatitis A recover uneventfully, however, complication rates are higher in patients older than 30 yr than younger patients. Preventive strategies including universal vaccination in infants and active immunization of hepatitis A to adult population should be considered for prevention of community-wide outbreaks of hepatitis A in Korea.
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