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Love can build a bridge

Naomi Judd contracted Hepatitis C as a nurse

By Karen Kier, Pharmacist on behalf of the ONU HealthWise team 

The Country Song of the Year Grammy was awarded to Love Can Build a Bridge performed by the Judds in 1992. The song was released in 1990 as a farewell after Naomi Judd was diagnosed with a hepatitis C infection. Naomi attended California’s College of Marin to study nursing and became a registered nurse. She worked in the intensive care unit at a Tennessee hospital when she contracted hepatitis C from a needlestick when taking care of a patient.  Healthcare professionals are at risk of contracting hepatitis from a needlestick.  

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and is most commonly caused by hepatitis viruses. Signs of hepatitis include stomach pain, low appetite, dark urine, yellow skin and eyes referred to as jaundice. Several hepatitis viruses have been identified and labeled from A to E.  The three most common causes of disease in the United States are hepatitis A, B and C.  

The CDC reports that about 24,900 new hepatitis A infections occur in the US every year.  Hepatitis A is most often spread by food contamination outbreaks. Hepatitis A is more common in the world than the United States and the World Health Organization reports over 1.5 million cases each year. Poverty and a lack of clean water supply are two of the most common reasons for hepatitis A outbreaks throughout the world. A hepatitis A vaccine is available in the US to prevent disease and is recommended for those at high risk including homelessness and international travel.  

Hepatitis B is usually spread by body fluids and is a leading cause of liver cancer. Two out of every three people do not even realize they are infected with hepatitis B. At this time, there is no cure for hepatitis B and healthcare providers will treat patients for symptoms or suppress the virus. This has prompted the CDC to draft new recommendations for screening for hepatitis B.  The proposed draft was released for public comment on April 4, 2022. Due to the number of silent cases of hepatitis B in the US, the recommendations would include at least one screening for those over 18 years of age and older once in their lifetime. The draft proposal includes an expanded definition of those at higher risk such as those in prison or detention centers, those with a history of a sexually transmitted infections or multiple sexual partners, or a history of hepatitis C.  

Numerous hepatitis B vaccines are available in the US to prevent infections. Healthcare providers are routinely vaccinated for hepatitis B, as well as the recommendation for newborns to receive the first vaccine dose of the 3-shot series. Evidence is emerging that many infants who received the 3-shot series before the age of 1 year of age may not be immune to hepatitis B. A study completed at the Raabe College of Pharmacy at Ohio Northern University showed about 75% of students vaccinated for hepatitis B before the age of one were no longer immune and required a new vaccination series.  

Hepatitis C is spread via small amounts of blood and is a leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants. There is no vaccination for hepatitis C, but within the last few years, treatments have been developed to cure hepatitis C in 8-24 weeks. Like hepatitis B, fifty percent of patients do not realize they have hepatitis C. The CDC recommends screening for those over 18 years of age at least once in their lifetime and testing as part of prenatal care for each pregnancy.  

The CDC is investigating reports of 109 cases in the US of unusual cases of hepatitis in children. The first case was reported in October of 2021 in Alabama. Currently, 25 states have reported cases since that time. Within the US, eight children have required liver transplants with five children dying from this rare hepatitis. Other countries have reported similar findings with over 300 cases reported worldwide. The CDC is evaluating the cause of these cases and the relationship to the adenovirus. 

Adenoviruses can cause eye infections, upper respiratory infections, as well as pneumonia and can include symptoms resembling the common cold. The adenovirus, type 41 has been present in several cases of the pediatric hepatitis.  Researchers are trying to determine if it is the actual cause or if it is present but not responsible for the illness. The scientists are evaluating whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus has primed these children to the new infection including the omicron variant.  One determination is these cases are not related to the use of the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines are available at ONU HealthWise Pharmacy. Please contact us for more information on hepatitis A, B, and C including screening and vaccinations.

ONU HealthWise is offering COVID-19 including boosters Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Call the pharmacy for an appointment for other time slots. The ONU HealthWise pharmacy offers Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. Call the pharmacy to get more information. 

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