Today, July 28th, is World Hepatitis Day. Organized by the World Hepatitis Alliance, this day is set aside to educate the world about hepatitis. This year’s motto is “Think Again,” encouraging us to remember that hepatitis is a dangerous disease that can spread just like HIV—and be prevented with the same methods you would use to avoid contracting HIV.
According to the World Hepatitis Alliance, “80% of people with hepatitis don’t know it!” In short, hepatitis is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. It causes symptoms like fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements & jaundice. There are five different types of hepatitis: A, B, C, D & E. Vaccinations are only available for hepatitis A, B & E.
Hepatitis B, C & D are transmitted much like HIV, through blood-to-blood contact and through sexual practices. Hepatitis A & E are transmitted through blood-to-blood contact or by eating foods or drinking water that has been contaminated by infected feces.
Knowing these facts about hepatitis, home care providers and professional caregivers should take precautions to avoid exposure to blood that may be infected. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that healthcare workers take “universal precautions” anytime they are working in situations involving a patient’s blood. Universal precautions are important because you may not know whether or not a person’s blood is infected with a dangerous blood-borne pathogen, and it’s best to be safe and protect yourself from exposure to any blood other than your own.
Caregivers should be trained to take universal precautions if they may be exposed to blood when assisting a client. Here are some things the CDC recommends: