Author, Alyssa Burley, Client Services Coordinator, Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.
Whether you work in the human services sector like healthcare, community outreach, or schools, or you are in the construction industry working in areas like downtown San Diego, your employees may come in contact with the Hepatitis A virus (HAV).
As cities throughout San Diego County actively work to stop the spread of the recent Hepatitis A outbreak, some employers are asking how they can protect their employees who may be exposed to the virus.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Hepatitis A virus is spread by “person-to-person transmission through the fecal-oral route (i.e., ingestion of something that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person) is the primary means of HAV transmission in the United States.”
While the local and national media have primarily focused on the concentration of homeless and drug users who have contracted the virus, about 20% of the recent reported cases are not included in that population, according to the “Hepatitis A Outbreak in San Diego, CA” interview by Dennis Stein, linked to on the County of San Diego’s website. However, about half of the 20%, can trace their infection back to working with at risk populations. Thus, the Hepatitis A outbreak should be everyone’s concern, not just those included in the homeless population and drug users.
The “Hepatitis A vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease,” wrote Wilma J. Wooten, Public Health Officer and Director for the County of San Diego Public Health Services, in a letter to emergency responders, businesses, homeless providers and substance abuse treatment providers. While vaccination is an option to prevent infection, good hygiene is also highly effective.
Follow the steps below to help prevent the spread of the Hepatitis A virus to your employees:
1. Wash Hands
First and foremost, instruct employees to frequently wash their hands with soap and warm water after using the restroom, before eating, and after touching handrails, door handles, tools, and other surfaces that are frequently used by others.
Handwashing is “integral to Hepatitis A prevention, given that the virus is transmitted through the fecal–oral route,” according to the CDC’s website.
It may be necessary to regularly sanitize your facility or equipment. “Maintain routine and consistent cleaning of bathrooms for employees and the public, using a chlorine-based disinfectant (bleach) with a ratio of 1 and 2/3 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Due to the high bleach concentration of this mix, rinse surfaces with water after 1 minute of contact time and wear gloves while cleaning,” suggests Wooten.
Awareness and education about the Hepatitis A outbreak is key to preventing the spread of the virus. Based on knowing the facts about how the virus is spread, employees may decide to wear disposable gloves, wash hands more frequently, or change the way they perform their job duties to prevent exposure.
The Risk Management Center provides a variety of training materials to Rancho Mesa clients on Hepatitis A and other bloodborne pathogens. Through online courses, training shorts, videos and other training materials, help educate your employees before there is an infection.
The County of San Diego also provides Hepatitis A information in the form of guidelines, cards, posters, videos and more.
Contact Rancho Mesa Insurance Services at (619) 937-0164 for more information.