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Employers Can Help Improve Hepatitis Awareness

Mary Bartlett
Posted by Mary Bartlett on May 23, 2022 5:03:22 PM

As an employer you can do your part to improve your employees’ understanding of viral hepatitis, how its transmitted, and risk factors. The month of May is Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health partners are working together to bring more awareness to viral hepatitis and are encouraging testing and vaccination. 

Hepatitis is currently receiving a lot of attention since it is affecting children. The vaccines available for Hepatitis A and B, however, do not protect against this particular hepatitis. Hepatitis is a catch-all term for acute liver injury. Information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that experts think that most of the current cases in children are associated with an adenovirus 41 which is a gastrointestinal virus. Parents need to be aware of the symptoms which include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain and jaundice. Pediatricians should be alerted as quickly as possible.

There are a number of viruses that cause hepatitis: Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. The most common are A, B and C with B and C the leading cause of liver cancer in the U.S. Hepatitis A and B are preventable as there is a vaccine to protect from both of those viruses. Hepatitis C is now curable with a prescribed treatment. CDC reports the following statistics:

  • About 66% of people with hepatitis B are unaware of their infection and about 40% of people living with hepatitis C do not know they are infected.
  • Getting tested is the only way to know if you have hepatitis A, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

Get information here about the CDC’s Hepatitis Awareness Month

The hepatitis that employers are most aware of is Hepatitis B since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard requires employers who are covered under this standard to offer it to certain employees. OSHA requires employers to educate their employees on the risk of infection and if it includes Hepatitis B, then to offer them within 10 days of hire the Hepatitis B vaccine at no cost to the employee.

Hepatitis B infection can lead to development of chronic or lifelong infection and even cause serious liver damage plus liver cancer. Even though there is no cure for Hepatitis B there are treatments available that can delay or reduce the risk of developing liver cancer. CDC states that Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected or has not been vaccinated. It can happen through sexual contact, sharing needles/syringes/other drug-injection equipment, or from mother to baby at birth. Vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent Hepatitis B. CDC recommends that all adults through age 59 and adults age 60 or older with risk factors should get vaccinated.

Get help in developing a customized written Health & Safety Program to assist with OSHA Compliance.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection that is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected so they can spread it to someone who ingests the virus. That’s usually through eating contaminated food or drink or through close contact with an infected person. This virus is very contagious and can even be spread before the infected person shows symptoms. Hepatitis A is easily prevented by vaccination. CDC recommends this vaccination for all children at one year of age and for adults who may be at risk which includes travelers to certain international countries.

Hepatitis C can be a short-term illness, but CDC states that for more than half of people who become infected it becomes a long-term, chronic infection that can lead to liver disease and liver cancer. Hepatitis C has been on the rise among young adults. CDC reports that Hepatitis C can also be spread through health care exposures, sex with an infected person, birth to an infected month, and tattoos and body piercings from unlicensed facilities or information settings. Someone can be asymptomatic for a life time so testing is the only way to know if you are infected with Hepatitis C. CDC recommends that all adults get tested at least once in their life, that pregnant women get tested during each pregnancy, and anyone with ongoing risk and certain medical conditions get tested. There’s currently no vaccine for Hepatitis C, however, most people can be cured in just 8 to 12 weeks with proper treatment.

The CDC has volumes of information about hepatitis on their website so during this month of awareness provide some educational opportunities for your employees to ensure they have a good understanding of the risks and how to prevent hepatitis.

Need an employee Health and Safety Manual for your business to assist in meeting OSHA requirements? Contact SafeLink Consulting for customized safety programs specific to your industry.

Learn more about what SafeLink Consulting can do to help your business with compliance services, including safety compliance, to meet OSHA training requirements and quality system consulting to meet FDA compliance.  SafeLink Consulting assists businesses with workplace safety training, infection control training, HIPAA training online, quality systems, assessments, audits, due diligence, and more.

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Topics: Insider, Dental, general, dental lab, health & safety, OSHA compliance, CDC guidance, Brewing Industry, Brewery Safety

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