First Aid providers and health workers in general are passionate about their work. They are always ready to go the extra mile to ensure that casualties and patients are given the best care they require to save their lives. However, just like any other occupation under the sun, First Aid Providers, paramedics and all health workers are exposed to various Dangers to their health and safety.
One of the dangers that First Aid providers and the likes are exposed to is Hepatitis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These five types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer”.
More facts about the disease from the WHO says that for the type B, “the virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person and more than 780 000 people die every year due to the consequences of hepatitis B. Regarding the type C, which is also a blood-borne virus, facts from WHO state that 130–150 million people globally have chronic hepatitis C infection, a significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer, 350 000 to 500 000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases. Aside Hepatitis B and C the type D virus is also transmitted through blood. The above facts make it very clear that first aid providers and indeed health workers face this occupational hazard as they engage in their work every day. For this reason and for the individuals or health workers who may think they are not at risk, the WHO during this year’s World Hepatitis Day (July 28) has urged such ones to rethink.
Hepatitis C is now being called the ‘silent epidemic’. The reason for this is that whereas some people will have symptoms straight away some others may carry it for up to ten years without knowing anything is wrong with them. To protect oneself, all who are exposed to blood-borne viruses including Hepatitis B, C and D, and First Aid Providers who are my focus in this article should follow these simple steps.
1. Experts advocate that one should have the right attitude and as a general rule of thumb, all human blood and other body fluids should be treated as infectious.
2. When providing first aid or CPR, protect yourself first, then treat the victim second.
3. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment: gloves, goggles, etc. as required by the accident.
4. When performing CPR, always use a pocket mask equipped with a one way valve to prevent contact with potentially infectious body fluids.
5. Contain spills immediately, then clean up and disinfect the area.
6. Clean up contaminated broken glass with tongs, forceps, or a brush and dust pan. Never use your hands, even if protected with gloves.
7. Handle all trash as if it contains sharps and/or infectious items.
8. When removing contaminated clothing, carefully turn inside out as it is removed to contain contaminants. Dispose in appropriately labeled bags or containers.
9. After removing personal protective equipment, wash hands or other affected body parts with soap and warm water. Vigorously scrub all areas to remove all potentially infectious contamination.
10. Place all potentially infectious materials and contaminated items in closeable containers or bags. The bags must be color coded (usually red)and/or marked with a biohazard label. Check with your supervisor for proper procedures. (Source: Worcester Polytechnic Institute Website)
Let’s join hands to protect ourselves against this silent killer: Hepatitis