Monday, May 21, 2012

National Hepatitis Awareness

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By Diane Forrest, RN

A couple of weeks ago I received a summons in the mail for jury duty.  When I went to the court house we were told a little about the case.  A woman had Hepatitis C and was pregnant.  When it came time to deliver the baby, the external monitor placed on her stomach was not giving the doctor the necessary information about the baby's condition, so an internal monitor was placed on the baby's head.  This is a small corkscrew device that breaks the skin's surface to remain in place while it sends vital information to the attached monitor.  The baby (now 6 years old) now has Hepatitis C.  I don't know if she was born with it, or contracted it after, but the grandmother, who is the guardian, and a nurse, is suing the OBGYN who delivered the baby because she believes the insertion of the fetal monitor caused the Hepatitis.

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Since I knew both parties involved, and the witnesses, I was not picked to serve on the jury, however have been interested to learn how the case turned out.

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Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. There are 3 main types of Hepatitis, A, which is airborne, B, which is blood borne, and C (formally known as Non A-Non B) There are a few more common types, D E F and G.

Signs and Symptoms:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Mild fever
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting

Many cases of hepatitis go undiagnosed because the disease is mistaken for the flu or because there are no symptoms at all.

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Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool (feces) of a person who has hepatitis A. The virus is spread most commonly when people put food or objects contaminated with stool containing HAV into their mouths. Large numbers of people get the virus after drinking contaminated water. It can also be spread by someone preparing food without washing their hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper.

Hepatitis A usually goes away on its own. Be sure to eat right, avoid dehydration and always wash your hands before eating or preparing food.

Hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person. You may get it by having unprotected sex with an infected person, sharing injection needles, getting tattoos with infected needles or sharing razors or toothbrushes with an infected person.

Acute Hepatitis B usually goes away on its own, Chronic Hepatitis B needs to be monitored by your doctor to determine if there is any liver damage. Prevention is the key. There is a series of vaccinations that are available to prevent contracting Hepatitis. All adults at risk as well as children should be vaccinated. It is normal protocol for nursing students to become vaccinated and I am sure the same is true for anyone in the health care field.

Hepatitis C virus is caused by coming in contact with an infected person's blood. It can lead to permanent liver damage, cirrhosis, cancer of the liver or liver failure. Most people do not know they have Hepatitis C until there is already some liver damage. Some people have had it for as long as 15 years without ever knowing. The way it is diagnosed is by blood tests.

May be treated with antivirals.

The main things to remember is to keep yourself safe. Get vaccinated, wash your hands and protect yourself if you are around blood and body fluids.

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For more information:

Now that you have learned a little more about Hepatitis, how would you decide the case?

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