May is Hepatitis Awareness Month
Hepatitis Awareness Month
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19th is Hepatitis Testing Day here in the United States. This is an opportune time to educate the public on the specifics of viral Hepatitis along with who should be tested for Hepatitis A, B or C. According to the CDC, millions of Americans have Hepatitis but many do not even know that they are infected. Many people live with Hepatitis for decades without any symptoms or feeling sick. Unfortunately, chronic Hepatitis is one of the leading causes of liver damage, cirrhosis or even cancer of the liver.
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are all different diseases. Each is caused by a different virus and each is spread differently. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter from contact with contaminated objects with even microscopic amounts of Hepatitis A virus. The resulting liver disease can range from a mild illness lasting only a few weeks to a more severe illness lasting over several months. The Hepatitis B virus is spread when body fluids from an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected with Hepatitis B. This can occur through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth. Hepatitis B can be a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after exposure or it can be a chronic infection that remains in the person’s body causing long-term health problems or eventual death. The best way to prevent both Hepatitis A and B is to get vaccinated. The Hepatitis C virus is spread when blood from an infected person enters the bloodstream of someone who is not infected. Before 1992 Hepatitis C could be spread through blood transfusions or organ transplants. But with the extensive screening process of the blood supply in the United States, Hepatitis C is more commonly spread through sharing needles to inject drugs. Like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C can either be acute or chronic. Chronic infection is a serious disease that can lead to death. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The best prevention method is to avoid injection drug use.
Getting tested is the only way to know if you have been exposed to Hepatitis A, B or C. The CDC offers a Hepatitis screening assessment online to determine if you should be tested for Hepatitis. (See the resource links listed below.) Although there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, there are vaccinations for A & B. The Hepatitis B vaccine used most often for adults comes in 3 injections with the 2nd and 3rd injection administered 1 month and 6 months after the first. The CDC recommends this vaccine for those working in health care, in a drug treatment program, if you have diabetes and are under age 60 or if you are a hemodialysis patient just to name a few. (For a full list of recommendations for the Hepatitis B vaccine, visit the CDC website at the resource link listed below.)
The Industrial Health Council offers the Hepatitis B vaccine in addition to our Employee Health & Wellness Worksite Screening Services which consists of BMI, blood pressure check, cholesterol test and glucose test. For more information on any of IHC’s health and wellness screening programs contact Gigi Talley at 205-326-4109, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.i-h-c.org.