What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The disease varies in clinical severity from a mild illness lasting 1-2 weeks to a severely disabling disease lasting several months.

There are other kinds of viral hepatitis such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E. These diseases and the viruses that cause them are not related to hepatitis A although they also affect the liver. They may have other, different symptoms and different modes of transmission. This means that there are different ways of spreading the disease and different means for preventing and controlling these diseases.

How can we prevent Hepatitis A in the workplace?

The prevention of hepatitis A in the workplace is based on good hygiene and sanitation.

Education programs for workers about personal hygiene practices should emphasize that careful hand washing is extremely important in the prevention of disease. Workers should be informed about using appropriate protective clothing and about removing it at the end of the shift. They should also be informed about the necessity of washing hands frequently, and before eating, drinking, or smoking; they should also avoid nail biting.

A hepatitis A vaccine is available and highly effective in preventing infection.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is an infectious liver disease. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Infections only occur if the virus is able to enter the blood stream and reach the liver. Hepatitis B is not transmitted by casual contact. For example, hospital employees who have no contact with blood, blood products, or blood-contaminated fluids are at no greater risk than the general public.

Blood is the major source of the hepatitis B virus in the workplace. It can also be found in other tissues and body fluids, but in much lower concentrations. Direct contact with infected blood can transmit the hepatitis B virus through:

  • Punctures of the skin with blood-contaminated needles, lancets, scalpels, or other sharp objects.
  • Splashes to skin bearing minute scratches, abrasions, burns, or even minor rashes.
  • Splashes to mucous membranes in the mouth, nose, or eyes.
Saliva of people with hepatitis B can contain the hepatitis B virus, but in very low concentrations compared with blood. Infected saliva can transmit the virus, so bite injuries can also spread the disease.

How can we prevent Hepatitis B in the workplace?

Prevention is the only protection against hepatitis B since there is no specific treatment for the infection. After the workers and activities at risk have been identified, a hepatitis B prevention program should be established. It may include a number of strategies, such as:

  • Immunizations against hepatitis B.
  • Identifying risks.
  • Universal precautions such as protective clothing and gloves.
  • Hand washing.
  • Education.
  • Reporting and follow-up of exposure

Immunization for Hepatitis A and B are readily available and easy to administer.

Please contact Pakenham Medicalc Cinic (P) +61 5941 6455 for any further information.