May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

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May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19th is Hepatitis Testing Day in the United States (U.S.)  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division of Immunization (MDHHS) would like to bring awareness to viral hepatitis. Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common viral infections in the U.S and affect more than 5% of Americans. Millions of Americans are living with chronic hepatitis and may not know it. Often, people do not show symptoms, or they may have a flu-like illness. Without a blood test they may never know they are infected with hepatitis but still can infect others.

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) has recently been in the news and has infected over 900 people in Michigan since August 2016; 80% of those infected were hospitalized and 28 people have died from complications of being infected with HAV. The bigger concern now is the number of people infected with HAV in the states surrounding Michigan. Michiganders can still be exposed and are at risk if they have not been vaccinated.  Hepatitis A (hepA) vaccine and hand washing are key in preventing infection. Contact your doctor or local health department (LHD) to find out more about the risk factors and how to get hepA vaccine. 

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) – Over two million people are chronically infected in the U.S and over 4,000 people die every year due to the complications of having HBV. Exposures to blood and other body fluids occur across a wide variety of occupations. Health care workers, emergency response and public safety personnel and other workers can be exposed to blood through needlestick and other sharps injuries and direct contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person due to their job duties. Workers and employers should take advantage of available engineering controls and work practices to prevent exposure to blood and body fluids. Hepatitis B (hepB) vaccine is very safe and effective and is available for those at risk or those who want to be protected from getting HBV. With an increase in acute HBV infections, it is important that everyone is protected. HBV prevention can start at birth by giving all babies born to hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive pregnant women hepB vaccine and hepatitis B immune globulin within 12 hours of birth. Because all mother’s HBsAg is not known at birth, it is extremely important that all medically stable babies get hepB vaccine within 24 hours of life, as a safety net to protect them. Contact your doctor or LHD to find out more about the risk factors, how to get tested and how to get hepB vaccine.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) – Over 3.5 million people are chronically infected with HCV in the U.S. HCV is transmitted through blood-to-blood exposure. The most common transmission routes include sharing HCV-infected equipment used to inject or prepare drugs and blood products/transfusions received before 1992.  As a result of the co-occurring opioid epidemic, the number of new HCV diagnoses among young adults has increased substantially over the last decade. Additionally, healthcare workers and emergency response teams are also at risk because of needlestick accidents and unavoidable situations due to direct contact with blood from an infected person. There is not a vaccine to protect against HCV, however those with HCV should get hepA and hepB vaccine and work with a specialist to determine if they are a candidate for treatment. Current treatments consist of a daily pill regimen for 8-12 weeks with minimal side effects and greater than 90% cure rate. Contact your doctor or LHD to see how you can get tested and how to get hepA and hepB vaccines.