Although most of the world’s attention has been focused on COVID-19 lately, health professionals also encourage residents of Anamosa and elsewhere to learn more about the risks of other infectious diseases, including hepatitis.
Learning more about hepatitis can be useful whatever your health condition, whether you’re receiving palliative care, traditional care, or general home health care. This knowledge is also useful for those who may be in good health but may have friends or loved ones with the disease.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care also makes sure we are all aware of hepatitis and other infectious blood-borne pathogens.
We want to make sure that our staff takes suitable precautions to minimize the risk of infection, whether it’s a nurse to patient, patient to nurse, or other family members in the mix.
This means taking steps to reduce infection, including using gloves or properly disposing of needles or syringes after use, or taking extra care if anyone comes into contact with blood or other fluids.
Although medical centers and clinics likely have a strong infection control program in place, such as special disposal locations in exam rooms for “sharps,” this concept could be difficult to duplicate in a home care situation.
The risk of contamination or accidental exposure is still present in home health situations, since nurses or aides may not want to take possibly infectious items with them when they visit other clients or also don’t want to leave them loose in a client’s garbage where anyone could be injured or infected.
More about hepatitis
Along with general precautions and general training about pathogens, our staff also has had extensive training in different forms of hepatitis. Many of us have also worked with clients or family members with these types of infection, so we’re always happy to educate anyone about living with hepatitis and some of the precautions that can be taken.
If you’re unfamiliar with hepatitis, it’s a viral liver disease that can be chronic in some people.
It can be spread by transmission of blood or other fluids, and spikes are sometimes reported in communities with high rates of illegal drug use due to the sharing of contaminated needles.
But some people with hepatitis contracted it in other ways, such as medical accidents or eating or drinking at restaurants where one of the staff may have infected food, drinks, or shared surfaces. In some cases, it can lead to chronic liver failure and damage to other organs.
In other cases, people may live with it for years if they take certain medications and health precautions.
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration tells us that 2.4 million people currently have Hepatitis C, about 860,000 have Hepatitis B and 1.4 million cases of Hepatitis A are diagnosed each year.
There has been an increase in A, B, and C types over the years due to the current opioid crisis, since people receiving opiates for pain relief have a likelihood of needing injections, so higher risk of infection and accidents occurring.
The age group that has the highest rates of hepatitis are those born between 1945 and 1965, considered the ‘Boomer’ generation. This includes many in their 60s or 70s now.
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 a series of vaccines available for types A and B, but not yet for C.
For those with Hepatitis C, treatment methods are available in some cases, but they may not work for everyone or they may have a range of side effects, including liver damage or increased rates of certain cancer.
People receiving some of these treatments must take their medication regularly, eat a nutritious diet, and avoid other activities that can hurt their liver or other organs such as heavy alcohol use.
Education is vital
If you or someone you know has been affected by hepatitis, you’ll know it’s important to watch your health and check in regularly with a doctor or health care provider. If you are receiving home health care, your nurses or aides should be advised of your condition so they can take appropriate steps to avoid contamination.
Someone receiving palliative care who has hepatitis also may be taking different medications or have a different approach to their care management approach. They may be more interested in living with it rather than trying to cure it.
If you’re interested in learning more, this month is an excellent opportunity.
World Hepatitis Day takes place on July 28. This annual global campaign offers resources for anyone interested in any aspect of hepatitis. The event 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 the effort to find those who may not be aware they have hepatitis, a figure believed to be as high as 290 million worldwide.
Visitors can also sign an open letter encouraging governments to continue efforts to combat hepatitis. In 2016, many countries pledged to stamp out viral hepatitis by 2030, a goal that doesn’t appear likely especially when the world is dealing with other public health and political challenges.