Bureau Of Wellness Safety & Training

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Heath Information for the Fire Service

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- Hepatitis C -

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Hepatitis C ( HCV )

History: Isolated and identified in 1990. Prior to 1990 it was classified as non-A non-B Hepatitis. Hepatitis is a bloodborne virus which lives in and attacks the liver. The incubation period is 2 to 6 months. HCV can remain undetected and without producing symptoms for up to 20 years or more. Estimates range from 4 to 15 million Americans infected. Most do not know they have the disease. Up to 10,000 fatalities annually. The Fire/Rescue Service has been shown to test positive at a rate of 6%, 3 times the national average. (See JEMS March 2000 )

Risks of Transmission:

  • Sharing illegal IV drug needles.
  • Multiple sex partners.
  • Tatoos and body piercing with nonsterile instruments.
  • Homosexual relationships.
  • Healthare workers

NOTE: Sexual transmission in monagamous relationships is uncommon. Household transmission is also uncommon.(Sharing razors and toothbrushes.)

Signs & Symptoms: Many of the symptoms can be incorrectly attributed to other possibilities such as the flu. Symptoms range from none to organ failure and death. The most commonly reported symptoms are: 

  • Jaundice ( Yellowing of the skin )
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

Testing and Detection: Blood tests for HCV antibodies and liver enzyme ( ALT ) are used for initial detection. If HCV is diagnosed, then it may be useful to perform a needle biopsy to determine the degree of damage.

Treatment: If treatment is recommended, then a combination of Interferon and Ribavirin are the current drugs of choice. Abstention from alcohol. Eat right, rest well, exercise and drink lots of water can reduce symptoms. Most people live symptom free for many years.

Prevention: Utilize accepted and mandated universal body substance isolation precautions. Educate yourself, your family, friends and loved ones regarding Hepatitis C and universal precautions. You may want to Get Tested if : 

  • Eight or more years in Fire/Rescue 
  • Previous exposure known or suspected 
  • Any of the above risk factors

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Information Resources for Hepatitis C ( HCV )

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta Ga. 30333
( 888 ) 4 HEP CDC

National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse
#2 Information Way
Bethesda MD 20892-3570
( 301 ) 654-3810 http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/digest/pubs/hep/hepc/hepc/htm

American Liver Foundation
1425 Pompton Ave.
Cedar Grove N. J. 07009-1000
( 800 ) 223-0179

Hepatitis Foundation
International 30 Sunrise Terrace
Cedar Grove N. J. 07009-1423
( 800 ) 891-0707

National Hepatitis C Coalition
P O Box 921
Smyrna Tenn. 37167
( 615 ) 355-8604

Firehouse.Com Hepatitis C Information
A great source of information related directly to the Fire/Rescue Service concerns regarding Hepatitis C.

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