Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E

28 07 2015

It’s World Hepatitis Day.

We want to use this day to remind moms and dads that hepatitis is around and some of it can be prevented by vaccination.

Hepatitis C is a bloodborne virus that attacks the liver. It is not vaccine-preventable. If babies are infected it’s usually from their hepatitis C+ mothers or, and this is unlikely these days, from a blood transfusion. It’s unlikely because the screening process of donated blood is pretty darn thorough. But, germs have slipped through that screening process.

Teens and young adults may become infected, primarily through sharing of needles, sex with an HCV+ person, or sharing personal items such as razors or toothbrushes that may be contaminated with HCV.

There are effective treatments that work on a good portion of hepatitis C-infected children. But not on all infected children. Work is ongoing in this area.

Hepatitis C is frequently a chronic infection, meaning that if treatment is not effective, you will be infected for your lifetime.

Hepatitis A is vaccine-preventable. Normally, it’s passed person-to-person through the fecal-oral route, which is when something you eat or drink has been contaminated with hepatitis A+ poop. If you haven’t been vaccinated, chances are you will become infected.

This virus makes you feel lousy and can, rarely, do serious damage to the body. It does not become a chronic infection. It infects you and then goes away, like a cold virus.

Hepatitis B is vaccine-preventable. It’s transmitted in a lot of ways—mom to newborn, sharing needles or personal items, sex with an infected person, even household (nonsexual) contact. If a mom is aware of her infection prior to giving birth, shots can be given to the baby within 12 hours of birth that are effective at stopping tranmission of the virus from mom to baby. However, when babies are infected, almost half of them in the US will become chronically infected. In developing countries, that figure shoots up to 90 percent.

Today, despite the vaccine, approximately 1,000 babies become chronically infected with hepatitis B each year in the US. Many of the moms-to-be who are infected are unaware of their infection. Every pregnant woman should be tested for hepatitis B so that action can be taken at birth to prevent infection of the newborn.

Hepatitis D is an odd virus. You have to be infected with hepatitis B before you can get hepatitis D. It’s vaccine-preventable in that, if you get immunized against hepatitis B, you won’t be able to get hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E is similar to hepatitis A in the way it is transmitted—the fecal-oral route. It’s rarely a chronic infection. For most people, they get it, get sick, and get over it. It can however be dangerous for pregnant women, with a 10% – 30% fatality rate for this group. It’s not often found in the US but can be easily picked up in some other parts of the world.

That’s about it for hepatitis in the US. To prevent a hepatitis infection (and lots of other infections), wash your hands throughout the day, put barriers between yourself and another person’s blood or body fluid, and use the available vaccines. The trick is to do these things with everyone. It’s impossible to tell who is infected with what, most of the time, so the safest course of action is to assume everyone is infected with something and then act accordingly.

Got any tips? Hope you share them will us in the comments.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Johns Hopkins





Standard Precautions for Your Family

19 12 2011

At PKIDs, we talk a lot about disease prevention and the three steps you and your family can take to stay as healthy as possible. Today I’m going to share some of our information about one of those steps, but I can’t resist mentioning the other two.

First, keep your hands clean and don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Those are prime areas for germs to enter your body.

Second, check with your provider to see what vaccines you and your family need and then get vaccinated on schedule.

Third, practice standard precautions in daily living. This means that you assume that everyone’s blood and body fluids are infectious for HIV, hepatitis B or C, or other bloodborne pathogens and you act accordingly.

People of all colors, rich and poor, fat and thin, old and young are chronically infected with HCV, HBV, HIV, and other diseases. Forty to 90 percent of these folks don’t know they’re infected.

It’s impossible to identify those living with an infectious disease. The only way to try and keep yourself and your kids reasonably healthy is to learn a practical approach to standard precautions. At first, you’ll be paranoid of everyone and everything, but as the precautions become habits, they’ll be a natural part of your life—like turning the lock on a door, or stepping on the brake at a red light. They will become normal, daily precautions.

The primary thing to remember with standard precautions is to always have a barrier between your skin and mucous membrane (around the eyeballs, gums, and inside the nose), and the (potentially) infectious substance. Go to a medical supply store and buy some latex gloves. Keep them in your house and car. If you don’t happen to have gloves and you need to deal with someone’s body fluid, put sandwich baggies or trash can liners over your hands. Use a sanitary napkin or thick, rolled-up towel to collect the fluid or staunch the flow of blood.

Sometimes blood and body fluids can become airborne. If you wear glasses, keep them on. If you don’t wear glasses, put on your sunglasses to protect your eyes. If you have one, tie a scarf around your face like the masked bandits used to do.

Use a one-part bleach to ten-part water solution or another disinfectant for cleaning up substances, including your own! As soon as you have dealt with the situation, throw away the disposable protective items (your gloves, etc.) and wash your hands thoroughly.

As soon as possible, cover your hands again and remove any non-disposable items you’re wearing and wash them appropriately. Common sense will guide you in this. Just don’t go through all of the precautions only to bare-hand your dress which is covered in someone else’s body fluid.

Make sure you keep all of your cuts and abrasions covered with a waterproof bandage. Be careful with badly chapped skin. It can crack and allow fluids to enter and exit. These precautions are a two-way street. You may be one of the millions unaware that you’re living with an infectious disease.

Only you know if your child is old enough to understand these precautions. Practicing them with your kids would be useful for the whole family. If your kids are too young to understand what we’ve outlined, there are a few things you can try to help the younger members of the family participate in standard precautions.

It would help if you set aside a non-work day to role play this with your kids. Call it: Family Safety Day. This would also be a good day to practice evacuating the house in case of fire and all those other safety rules we seldom rehearse.

To help the kids understand how invisible germs can pass from one person to the next, put glitter on your child’s hands and let him/her go to the bathroom, play with family members, and pick up a cracker (without actually eating it). Go back to the beginning of the journey and walk him/her around the house, following the trail of glitter. This will help demonstrate how we can pass germs (and other things) to each other without knowing it. To press home the point, you might put glitter on your hands, too.

Have one member of the family be “bleeding” ketchup. You be a young child and run for an adult when you see the blood. Have your young child go through the same scenario several times. Then pretend there’s no adult around and show your child how to use a coat or towel as a barrier between them and the blood.

It’s important that they learn not to reach out and touch another person’s blood or body fluid. One way to help them understand (and this is kind of gross) is to ask them if they would touch someone else’s poop or nose gunk. Most kids, no matter how young, will say no. You can then explain that blood is really personal, like poop and nose gunk, and they don’t want to touch anyone else’s blood.

This approach is necessary only for a few years. Once they get to be five or six, you can start explaining more.

A few general rules for everyone to remember would be: don’t share razors, toothbrushes, manicure tools, nail clippers, hypodermic needles, cocaine straws, body piercing equipment, tattooing equipment, or anything that can puncture or is a personal grooming item.

Standard precautions as practiced by healthcare professionals cover a wide range of topics, including sharps disposal, ventilation devices (mouth pieces for resuscitation), specimen handling, and other opportunities for the spread of infection which you are unlikely to come across in daily living.

We wanted to give you some practical, basic precautions to help you live a normal, safe life. Let us know if you have any ideas for teaching little ones precautions.

You might want to check on your daycare or preschool or kindergarten’s awareness of standard precautions. Most of them will say they’ve had AIDS training. If they are receptive to suggestions, feel free to share some of these ideas with them.

We know of a preschool which keeps a chart for cleaning the bathrooms, gloves are always worn when necessary, and they really work hard to do everything right. But, several of the preschoolers never get to use soap on their hands because the sink is too wide for them to reach across to the soap dispenser, and the side access is blocked from a large storage cabinet which is pushed against the sink. The best of intentions can’t overcome reality.

Following these steps won’t guarantee you a disease-free life, but it’ll cut down on the number of infections you have.

By PKIDs staff

Image courtesy of skidmore.edu