Hepatitis A, B & C: Overview and Disinfection Guidelines
WHAT IS HEPATITIS?
Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, some medications, toxins, and certain medical conditions can all cause hepatitis. However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common hepatitis viruses are Hepatitis A virus (HAV), Hepatitis B virus (HBV), and Hepatitis C virus (HCV). While these three viruses can cause similar symptoms, they differ in several ways, including how they’re treated and transmitted. This article will cover the differences between Hepatitis A, B, and C, as well as the importance of proper cleaning and disinfection protocols to help prevent the spread of infection.
Hepatitis A is caused by an infection with the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). This type of hepatitis is most commonly transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated by feces from a person infected with Hepatitis A. Individuals infected with HAV can spread the disease to others anytime from 1 to 2 weeks before symptoms appear, through one week after symptoms occur. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), more than 30 states have been affected by Hepatitis A outbreaks since 2016. Hepatitis A can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
Unlike Hepatitis B and C, HAV infection does not cause long-term, chronic liver disease. Most people who become infected with Hepatitis A are only sick for a few weeks. However, in rare cases, HAV infection can cause liver failure and death. For long-term protection, the Hepatitis A Vaccine is the best method of prevention.
Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). For many people, Hepatitis B is a short-term illness. For others, it can become a long-term, chronic infection that can lead to serious, even life-threatening health issues like cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with blood and other bodily fluids containing HBV.
The Hepatitis B virus is approximately 5 to 10 times more infectious than the Hepatitis C virus and far more stable. HBV can survive – and remain highly contagious – on surfaces outside of the body for up to 7 days if not properly cleaned and disinfected. A recent study also suggests that HBV has the ability to survive in extreme temperatures. Additionally, the Hepatitis C virus has been known to survive outside of the body for a shorter period of time on room-temperature surfaces. The CDC estimates that 1.2 million people in the U.S. and 350 million people worldwide live with this chronic disease. According to the CDC, the best way to prevent Hepatitis B is to get vaccinated.
Hepatitis C comes from the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is transmitted through direct contact with blood that contains HCV. HCV is among the most common bloodborne viral infections in the U.S. Approximately 2.7 to 3.9 million Americans are currently living with a chronic form of this infection. Over half of people that contract the virus will develop chronic Hepatitis C. Currently, no vaccine exists to protect against the Hepatitis C virus.
HEPATITIS A, B, & C DISINFECTION GUIDELINES
Infection prevention is key in stopping the spread of Hepatitis A, B, and C, and other bloodborne pathogens. Cleaning and disinfecting items and surfaces that have been contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids can help lower the risk of being exposed to a bloodborne disease, including viral hepatitis, through cross-contamination.
Vital Oxide is an EPA-Registered Disinfectant that is tested and proven effective to kill several strains of viral hepatitis, including Hepatitis A, B, and C. Additionally, Vital Oxide meets surface disinfection recommendations from OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standards for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, as well as HIV-1.
Here are some general disinfection steps to follow to reduce the spread of viral hepatitis.
1. CLEAN SURFACES
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and two layers of disposable latex gloves. (IMPORTANT NOTE: When handling items soiled with blood or other bodily fluids, use disposable latex gloves, gowns, masks, and eye coverings.)
- Use disposable absorbent material (paper towels or other disposable cloth) to wipe any visible dirt and debris. Follow up by spraying and wiping the area clean with Vital Oxide to clean the surface.
- Discard soiled items (including the first set of gloves) carefully in an impervious plastic trash bag.
- If using Vital Oxide to clean and disinfect, there is no need to rinse the surface prior to disinfection. However, if using soap and water, bleach, detergent, or a standard all-purpose cleaner, thoroughly rinse the area with clean water, and dry using paper towels before disinfection. 2. Disinfect Surfaces
2. DISINFECT SURFACES
- Apply Vital Oxide to the clean surface by spraying, wiping, or fogging full-strength, and allow it to dwell for the proper contact time. In the case of Hepatitis A, B, and C, Vital Oxide should be allowed to dwell for five minutes. There is no need to rinse following disinfection or sanitization, even on food-contact surfaces if using Vital Oxide. In addition to being a Hospital-Grade Disinfectant, Vital Oxide is also an NSF-certified (no rinse required) food-contact sanitizer.
- If using bleach or other approved disinfectant, make sure to thoroughly rinse the surface with water after disinfecting.
3. CLEAN SOILED ITEMS
- Take off gloves, gown, and mask (in that order) and discard before exiting the clean-up area.
- Seal and dispose of the trash bag.
- Re-glove and transport the bag to a secure trash container.
- If needed, wash soiled clothing in hot water and add Vital Oxide directly to the washer (½ cup - 1 cup depending on the size of the load) to sanitize.
4. WASH HANDS
- Always wash your hands after handling any contaminated material, trash, or waste.
- Use soap and warm water.
- Rub hands together for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse hands in warm water.
SURFACES TO DISINFECT TO HELP STOP THE SPREAD OF VIRAL HEPATITIS
To help stop the spread of HAV, HBV, HCV, and other bloodborne pathogens, it’s essential to frequently clean and disinfect (or sanitize) high-touch surfaces, such as:
- Restroom surfaces
- Light switch plates
- High chairs
- Kitchen surfaces
- Food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, countertops, cooking equipment, etc.)
- Shared electronics (tablets, computer keyboards, etc.)
- Tables and chairs
- Wheelchairs and walkers
- Recreation equipment
- Remote controls