The vast majority of our work at SelectCare Home Care Services focuses on the immediate, day-to-day needs of our clients – providing older New Yorkers with the assistance they need to stay active, healthy and independent. While home care might be our primary focus, we believe it is important to look at the bigger picture and do our part to educate the public about important health topics.
To that end, we are participating in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Hepatitis Day on July 28th. World Hepatitis Day was first declared in 2010 in recognition of the 400 million people struggling with the disease around the globe, causing approximately 1.4 million deaths annually.
The WHO hopes to raise awareness of viral hepatitis, with a focus on the three most common infections, hepatitis A, B, and C. These diseases target the liver, and while US rates of hepatitis A and B are dropping due to increasing vaccination rates, there is currently no known vaccine for hepatitis C, which can easily go unnoticed because few patients display symptoms until long after infection.
Over the past 15 years, the incidences of hepatitis A and B virus infection in the United States have declined significantly but the incidence of hepatitis C virus infection has increased by 75% since 2010, in part due to an increase in testing in American medical institutions.
Here are the Facts:
Each strain of viral hepatitis is transmitted differently. Hepatitis A (HAV) is normally spread when infected fecal matter comes in contact with the mouth, either directly, or through exposure to contaminated food or water. To prevent exposure, the WHO urges everyone, vaccinated or not, to wash their hands after using the bathroom, as well as before cooking or eating.
Hepatitis B (HBV) is transmitted by exposure through body fluids of an infected person. Blood and other bodily fluids contaminated with HBV can remain infectious outside the body for about seven days, meaning any surface exposed to bodily fluids should be cleaned promptly and thoroughly. Between 2000 and 2012, the rate of new HBV infections declined dramatically in the United States due to comprehensive vaccination programs and promoting the use of universal precautions like hand washing and the use of protective gloves when performing personal care procedures.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is the leading cause of liver-related death and cancer in the Western world. HCV is transmitted by injection or infusion, typically through needle sharing or poor infection control practices in a medical setting. We usually think about issues of infection control as being limited to a medical office, however HCV can be spread by sharing appliances that might come into contact with blood such as toothbrushes, dental appliances, razors or nail clippers. When visiting a nail salon, health officials suggest you either bring your own nail clippers and files or that the clippers are taken from the sterilizer, not used from one client to another.
SelectCare takes health concerns like hepatitis seriously, both for our clients and staff. Our nurse supervisors provide field staff members with thorough universal precaution training during orientation and quarterly inservices and follow up these lessons with in-home supervision during their free monthly client visits.
To learn more about what you can do to raise awareness on World Hepatitis Day, find an event near you. To learn more about how SelectCare works to provide New Yorkers with safe, reliable care in the comfort of their own homes, call us today.