Hepatitis C (Hep C) seems to make it into the news at least twice a year with a story about how some hospital worker, addicted to pain medications, used needles that were then (sometimes unknowingly) used on patients, resulting in an outbreak of Hep C infection.
This time it’s in Florida, and the accused was a radiology technician who may have infected 5 people with Hep C, one of whom has died of the disease.
While it’s always sad to hear these stories, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from a hospital acquired Hep C infection (while rare, these Hepatitis C outbreaks can infect hundreds at a time before stopped, as with the case in Australia):
- Don’t be afraid to ask about hygiene practices. After last year’s Hep C outbreak in Nevada, an inspection spaning several states found that outpatient hospitals were not following safe practices to prevent disease transmission. Good hygiene practices in hospitals also helps stop transmission of superbugs.
- Get tested for STDs, even if you are not otherwise at risk. In the Florida Hep C outbreak, the technician claims he was unaware he had Hep C, and those infected may have benefited from earlier treatment. It can take up to 6 months to test positive for Hepatitis C after transmission.
- Generally, it’s not safe to share objects like toothbrushes and razorblades, which can come in contact with blood via microcuts you may be unaware of, making Hep C transmission possible.
Hepatitis symptoms may develop slowly or not at all, making early and frequent testing critical. Early Hep C symptoms may resemble the flu, with more severe hepatitis symptoms like infection, jaundice, and dark urine not occurring until after liver damage has already occurred.
Does it worry you these Hepatitis C transmissions happen so often? Share your concerns in the comments!