Interior - woman

You can get hep B
from blood and
unprotected sexual contact

Interior - indigenous

For more information,
call 1300 HEP ABC

Interior - beach

You can only get hep C
from blood-to-blood contact

Interior  - family

Effective treatment
is available for
hepatitis B and C

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Viral hepatitis (A, B & C)

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, and it can be caused by a virus or other non-viral causes.  The main difference between the viruses is how they are spread and the effects they have on your health.

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Prevention

There are safe and effective vaccines that protect you from getting hepatitis A and B.  While there is no vaccine for hep C, by being ‘blood aware’ you can reduce your overall chance of being exposed to the virus.

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Living with Hepatitis

People with chronic hepatitis can do a number of things to stay healthy including limiting/avoiding alcohol, reducing stress, not smoking, getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet.

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Treatment

Effective treatment is available for both chronic hepatitis B and C.  Before you can see a liver specialist to talk about going on treatment, you need to get a referral from your GP first.

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Prevention

There are safe and effective vaccines that protect you from getting hepatitis A and B.  While there is no vaccine for hep C, by being ‘blood aware’ you can reduce your overall chance of being exposed to the virus.

Being blood aware

Being blood aware doesn’t mean having to be fanatical about avoiding contact with other people’s blood.  It simply means taking reasonable steps to reduce the overall chance of being exposed to blood-borne viruses (such as viral hepatitis and HIV).

Blood awareness applies when dealing with blood or other body fluid accidents, whether the people involved are known to have hepatitis or not.

  • Your skin is your ‘first line of defence’ against infections.  Make sure you have no uncovered cuts, abrasions or dermatitis when giving first aid
  • Wear disposable gloves when dealing with any blood or other bodily fluids
  • Disposable materials (e.g. paper towels) should be used when cleaning up blood or other bodily fluid spills or splashes
  • Any surfaces which have had blood or other bodily fluid splashes should be cleaned with detergent and water
  • Vaccination against infections such as hepatitis A and B are important
  • When giving resuscitation in the event of a first aid emergency, use safe practices (such as using a mouth shield).

It is important to remember that hepatitis B and C are blood-borne viruses, and are not passed on through general contact between people. You cannot get hepatitis B or C from saliva, tears or sweat.

Standard precautions

Standard precautions are basic levels of infection control and risk minimisation.  The basic principle of infection control around blood is to treat all blood as potentially infectious. There is no need for additional precautions for hepatitis-positive people when standard infection control measures are in place.

Standard precautions include

  • Good hygiene practices
  • Hand washing
  • Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • The correct handling and disposal of sharps and other potentially infectious waste
  • Routine cleaning
  • Immunisation for health care workers

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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver; however it does not lead to long-term liver disease.  It is an acute (short-term) infection and symptoms usually last for one to three weeks; some people, especially young children, may have no symptoms at all.  Once someone has been exposed to hepatitis A and developed antibodies to it, they have a life-long immunity from re-infection to this virus.

How can you prevent getting hep A?

  • Get vaccinated.  This is the best protection
  • Washing hands with soap and waster after going to the toilet, before eating or handling food, after handling soiled or used objects such as nappies and condoms
  • Seek advice on food and water risks and consider vaccination when travelling to developing countries
  • Immunoglobulin within two (2) weeks following exposure

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Hepatitis B

Hep B is in all body fluids but it is spread through direct blood-to-blood contact and unprotected sexual contact.  It is SAFE to share things like food, eating utensils, cups and plates.  You cannot get hep B from hugging, kissing, sneezing, mosquitoes, from crying, pets, or sharing toilets or showers.

How can you prevent getting hep B?

  • Get vaccinated.  This is the best protection
  • Avoid blood-to-blood contact
  • If you are pregnant and have hep B, talk to your doctor about vaccinations and Hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) for your baby at birth
  • Never share injecting drug equipment (including needles, water, spoons, filters and tourniquets) and dispose of these safely
  • Cover open wounds or cuts with bandaids and clean up any blood spills with disposable gloves and bleach
  • Always get your tattoos and piercings done by a professional who uses sterile equipment
  • Don’t share items that may have traces of blood on them like tweezers, razors or toothbrushes
  • It is safe to breastfeed but if your nipples are cracked or bleeding you should stop temporarily
  • If you are not immunised and you have sexual or blood contact with someone that may have hepatitis B, you should talk to your doctor or clinic about getting vaccinated and Hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG).  HBIG can help your body fight hep B if you have just been exposed to the virus.  You should get the HBIG injection within 72 hours of possible contact.
  • Where possible, avoid medical procedures in countries where standard precautions may be lacking or organs, tissues, blood, or blood products may not have been properly screened. In Australia, the risk of acquiring hepatitis through medical procedures is extremely low.

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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus; this means that for transmission to occur, hepatitis C positive blood must directly enter the bloodstream of another person.  You cannot get hep C from hugging, kissing, sneezing, mosquitoes, from crying, pets, or sharing toilets or showers.

How can you prevent getting hep C?

  • Avoid blood-to-blood contact
  • Never share injecting drug equipment (including needles, water, spoons, filters and tourniquets) and dispose of these safely
  • Cover open wounds or cuts with bandaids and clean up any blood spills with disposable gloves and bleach
  • Always get your tattoos and piercings done by a professional who uses sterile equipment
  • Don’t share items that may have traces of blood on them like tweezers, razors or toothbrushes
  • It is safe to breastfeed but if your nipples are cracked or bleeding you should stop temporarily
  • Where possible, avoid medical procedures in countries where standard precautions may be lacking or organs, tissues, blood, or blood products may not have been properly screened. In Australia, since 1990, the risk of acquiring hepatitis through medical procedures is extremely low.

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Personal appearance services

A personal appearance service is a hairdressing, beauty therapy or skin penetration procedure that is provided as part of a business transaction.  Personal appearance services that involve skin penetration (whether accidental or intentional) can spread blood-borne viruses such as viral hepatitis and HIV.  Personal appearance services include:

  • Hairdressing
  • Facial or body treatments
  • Application of cosmetics
  • Manicure or pedicure
  • Application or mending of artificial nails
  • Hair removal (waxing, shaving, electrolysis, etc)
  • Body piercing
  • Tattooing

Proper hand-washing, use of clean and/or sterile instruments, safe waste disposal, safe procedures and clean premises all contribute to preventing the transmission of infections.

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