Understanding Hepatitis and preventing exposure in the workplace.
The word “Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is caused by viruses,
which are small organisms that can cause disease. There are many different types of
viruses that cause hepatitis, and it is possible to be infected with more than one hepatitis
virus at the same time. Each virus is completely different from the other viruses, all are
prevented and transmitted differently, and each causes different symptoms.
Understanding how the different types of hepatitis can spread is the first key to prevention. Hepatitis has many ways of invading the body but there are ways we can protect ourselves from contracting this disease.
There are 5 types of hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E. There are two main ways that hepatitis can pass from person to person: the most common being, coming in contact with infected blood or other body fluids, and contact with feces that is infected.
Hepatitis A and E is transmitted via the fecal-oral route. It is often caught by eating foods or drinking water that is contaminated with the feces of a Hepatitis A infected person, so hepatitis A is a great concern for the food industry and there is a vaccine available for Hepatitis A.
The virus for hepatitis A and E , also spreads and infections often occur in conditions of poor sanitation, overcrowding, and ingestion of shellfish cultivated in polluted water is associated with a high risk of infection. The virus is resistant to detergent, acid (pH 1), solvents, drying, and temperatures up to 60 °C.
Hepatitis B is found is in blood, saliva, vaginal fluid, or semen of an infected person. It is transmitted through unprotected sex, insect bites, and through blood-to-blood contact. Sexual transmission is a less common but still important route of exposure, especially for hepatitis B.
Ninety percent of people infected with hepatitis B clear the virus from their system without any treatment, however there is a vaccine to treat hepatitis B.
Hepatitis types B, C, and D are spread primarily through contact with infected blood.
Hepatitis C is transmitted only through blood-to-blood contact. Eighty percent of persons infected with hepatitis C will develop life-long symptoms and 20% who have chronic symptoms will develop cirrhosis of the liver (liver scarring). There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
In 2009, there were an estimated 16,000 acute Hepatitis C virus infections reported in the United States.
There are immunizations available to protect against hepatitis A and B. there are several types that are available. Two of them are Havrix and Vaqta which is given in a series of two inoculations at six months intervals.
HBV also poses a risk to healthcare workers who sustain accidental needle stick injuries while caring for infected-HBV patients. A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent HBV.
Combination hepatitis A and B vaccine (Twinrix): This vaccine is given in a three-part series and,...