If you’ve been diagnosed with any form of hepatitis, you’ve likely learned quite a lot about the virus. Residents of Glendale and elsewhere with the disease have a lot to think about in their daily lives, including how to keep from spreading it to others around them, especially if they’re receiving 24-hour care.
At the same time, home health care professionals likely will have their own guidelines and safety protocols to follow when working with clients who have different types of hepatitis. The staff at Accredited Home Care work with thousands of patients throughout Southern California, including some with the more common types of hepatitis.
We understand that not everyone is sure where or how they contracted it, and we don’t really need to know the specifics either if a client does know. All we really need to know is how to provide optimal care while keeping our staff safe. And if we can provide some education along the way for patients and their families living with the disease, even better.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, hepatitis has the potential to spread to health care workers and to patients, especially Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
Infections can be seen in outpatient settings, care facilities, hospitals, and clinics. Sometimes it’s improper use or storage of needles, syringes, or other sharp devices that could be in contact with fluids like blood. Sometimes it’s poor infection control or sanitation procedures.
Although it’s easier to manage these infection control tasks in a home health environment when there aren’t multiple employees and patients plus a faster pace like at a medical center, there is still the possibility of infection through accidental punctures, or from poor procedures like re-using needles or improperly disposing of “sharps” (a home may not have labeled red boxes for these or separate garbage cans.)
The CDC does advocate that health care workers receive the vaccine series for Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B especially if they could be exposed to blood or infectious fluids on a regular basis. There is currently not a vaccine developed yet for Hepatitis C, which is why caution is encouraged.
More about hepatitis
Beyond taking steps to reduce the potential spread of hepatitis, health care workers also might have to focus on hepatitis symptoms as well as any primary health conditions a client might be dealing with. Some of the virus types are chronic, which means they won’t go away. Symptoms may come and go, and it also could be progressive.
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration says that 2.4 million people currently have Hepatitis C and about 860,000 have Hepatitis B.
There has been an increase in A, B, and C types due to the current opioid crisis since people receiving opiates for pain relief have a higher likelihood of needing injections.
The age group that has the highest rates of hepatitis are those born between 1945 and 1965, considered the ‘Boomer’ generation.
Because some people are already in weak health, they are more likely to be in a position to be infected by a hepatitis virus, which could further affect their overall health.
There are also some treatment methods for Hepatitis C that may reduce the risk of some of the common side effects of the virus including damage to the liver. Cirrhosis and cancer are possible.
Receiving this treatment can be difficult and requires regular medication, cutting down on alcohol use and other substances that could affect the liver and monitoring diet and exercise.
Learning about treatment
Most medical professionals such as nurses or home health aides are encouraged to learn more about hepatitis and other bloodborne pathogens. This could be part of formal training during medical or nursing school or a supplemental class for continuing education credits.
This education can cover different methods of sanitation and hygiene practices. It also can include other related information like testing and screening,
The public also can take other opportunities to learn more about the virus, whether they have it or a friend or family member does.
One upcoming opportunity is World Hepatitis Day, which takes place on July 28. This annual global campaign offers resources for people who want to learn more. It also has a focus on helping people who may not know they have hepatitis get help and begin treatment.
The theme for 2020 is “Find the Missing Millions,” referring to trying to locate those who may not be aware they have hepatitis, a figure that is believed to be as many as 290 million around the planet.
People who want to do more can sign onto an open letter encouraging governments to continue efforts to combat and even reduce hepatitis. In 2016, many countries pledged to stamp out viral hepatitis by 2030, a goal that may not appear likely especially when the world is dealing with other public health and political crises.
Photo by michael_swan