World Hepatitis Day: the three types

For the world’s 8th biggest killer, viral hepatitis is remarkably neglected. That’s why in 2010 the World Health Organization made World Hepatitis Day one of only 4 official disease-specific world health days, to be marked each year on the 28th July.

World Hepatitis Day

Millions of people across the world now take part in World Hepatitis Day, to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, and to call for access to treatment, better prevention programs and government action.

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are five different hepatitis viruses, hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

Hepatitis A

Transmission: Hepatitis A is spread mainly through eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. It can also be spread by eating raw shellfish that have come from water contaminated by sewage.

Prevention: There is a vaccination for hepatitis A. Treatment within a few weeks of exposure to the virus can also bring short term immunity. You can reduce the risk of exposure by practicing good hygiene and sanitation, and avoiding drinking water that has come from a potentially unsafe source.

Treatment: As hepatitis A only causes acute hepatitis, the body is often able to clear the infection itself within a few weeks. However, hepatitis A infections can sometimes cause further complications.

Hepatitis B

Transmission: Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids (i.e. saliva, semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. It can be passed on from mother to child during childbirth.

Prevention: There is a vaccination that can prevent infection. If you have not been vaccinated, to reduce chances of exposure it is best to use condoms, and to avoid sharing needles or items such as toothbrushes, razors or nail scissors with an infected person. It is also wise to avoid getting tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities.

Treatment: Drugs such as alpha interferon and peginterferon and a variety of antiviral drugs are available which slow the replication of the virus and occasionally result in its clearance.

Hepatitis C

Transmission: Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact. In rare cases it can be transmitted through certain sexual practises and during childbirth.

Prevention: There is no vaccination for hepatitis C. It is therefore necessary to reduce risk of exposure, by avoiding sharing needles and other items such as toothbrushes, razors or nail scissors with an infected person. It is also wise to avoid getting tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities.

Treatment: Treatment for chronic hepatitis C aims to eradicate the virus. It often involves a combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin, and there is increasing use of potent direct acting antiviral drugs, with and without interferon.

Hepatitis D

Transmission: Hepatitis D is spread through contact with infected blood.

Prevention: Hepatitis D is only found in people who are already infected with the hepatitis B virus. People not already infected with hepatitis B, should get the hepatitis B vaccination. To reduce exposure, avoid sharing needles and other items such as toothbrushes, razors or nail scissors with an infected person. It is also wise to avoid getting tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities.

Treatment: Conditions may improve with administration of a-interferon, however no effective antiviral therapy is currently available for hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E

Transmission: Hepatitis E is mainly transmitted through eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. It can also be spread by eating raw shellfish that have come from water contaminated by sewage.

Prevention: Currently there is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis E, but it is not widely available. You can reduce the risk of exposure by practicing good hygiene and sanitation, and avoiding drinking water that has come from a potentially unsafe source.

Treatment: There is no treatment for hepatitis E. However it is usually self-limiting.

Source:

http://worldhepatitisday.org/en/about-hepatitis

When school is never over (for grown-ups)

E-learning for membersHow do you keep your mind active?

The human desire to soak in knowledge, to learn, and to grow is sometimes locked in battle with our realistic day-to-day needs, work, chores, commute, etc.

That being said, minds need stimulation. The brain is a muscle like any other and when it goes unchallenged, it loses its capacity to hold information and to operate at full capacity.

Some people do crosswords or puzzles. Some read, write, or listen to music. Others are on a continuous quest for education – formal or otherwise.

While in some ways nothing beats face-to-face training, there are many innovative online ways to learn that go above and beyond just reading lines on a screen. And they can give us the jolt that our brains need to function better in all aspects of our lives.

Incredibly, prestigious schools like MIT allow anyone to follow university courses online for free. The online platform Khan Academy uses a mix of text, chats and discussion, and video to open our eyes on thousands of different subjects. TED Talks allow you to soak in complex ideas by watching engaging (read: not boring) talks by experts.

There are also many free online courses available especially for SEIU Healthcare members, plus friends and family. These are practical and important courses that will improve your skills (for example, Microsoft Word) and teach you about work-related subjects such as accident investigation, First Aid, and labour history.

Feel free to share and help us all learn more!

Some facts about Purple Day…

SEIU Healthcare Purple Day

Why do we celebrate Purple Day?

Every year SEIU celebrates Purple Day – this year it’s July 17. Thousands of SEIU Healthcare members across Ontario dress up in crazy purple costumes and have some fun.

Purple is our colour. But Purple Day isn’t just about purple balloons, streamers, and ribbons. The day was created to remind people about the great things we can accomplish together. Did you know?

  • SEIU is the eighth largest union in Canada, and the second largest union in the United States.
  • SEIU has been defending the rights of healthcare workers in Ontario for over 70 years.
  • SEIU was the first union in Ontario to organize a hospital in 1944.
  • SEIU Healthcare is one of the fastest growing unions in Canada. The union has added over 11,000 new members over the past 11 years.
  • Together we achieve political victories and fight for a just society that respects working people.

We are more than just a union that files grievances and negotiates collective agreements. We are the heart of healthcare. We strive to improve the lives of working people inside and outside the workplace.

PTSD in our backyards (heroes are human too)

Paramedic demonstration in Lambton County

Chris Stolte has been a paramedic for 24 years and has made it his mission to fight post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for the sake of his colleagues that he’s seen succumb to the condition over the years.

He just led a demonstration in Lambton County, in southwestern Ontario between the cities of Sarnia and London, to call for their employer to provide a critical debriefing team for paramedics who experience a traumatic call.

Local County Councillors came out and spoke to the paramedics that day.

“We opened up their eyes,” says Chris. “They have very little knowledge about PTSD. People might hear about something going on provincially, but don’t understand the problems are local, too. PTSD is a problem right across the province, in both urban and rural areas.”

As defined in a new law currently before MPPs at Queen’s Park, post-traumatic stress disorder “means an anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a traumatic event or experience with symptoms that may include flashbacks, nightmares and intense feelings of fear or horror.”

Chris is highly concerned by PTSD and its impact on the rate of suicide among first responders: paramedics, firefighters, police officers, military personnel, etc. He sees the devastating effects that traumatic incidents can have. PTSD manifests itself in different ways for people, sometimes hiding and self-medicating. The illness can also lead to relationship problems and separation and divorce.

Here’s Chris’s analogy to help the average person understand the reality of how PTSD works: “Everyone in life carries around a bucket, and every time we experience different types of stressors, a bit of water gets added to the bucket. In this job eventually your bucket is going to overflow if left unchecked. So we need to try to mitigate the damage, and provide resources and education before the bucket overflows.”

If you feel symptoms of PTSD, you can get help. Chris says that people are reluctant to come forward with problems but “with proper help, it can be cured.” He says it’s common for paramedics to go to bed thinking about calls, whether it’s one from tonight or 10 years ago. But there’s no shame in it.

As a society we need to realize that heroes are human. That’s a term used by the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, an organization created by Vince Savoia, the paramedic who in 1988 was called to the scene of the horrific murder of a young woman named Tema Conter in Toronto. The fund helps other paramedics and creates awareness for critical incident stress and post-traumatic stress disorder, and also highlights the alarming suicide statistics for first responders: so far in 2015 alone, 26 first responders and 7 military members have died by suicide in Canada.

Chris is fortunate to have a great rapport with his work partner. They always discuss stressful calls after they finish them, and try to find some resolution. Every paramedic needs access to this kind of support and more.

Attitudes about mental health are changing, but laws can also change, and that helps a lot.

In February 2014, Bill C-67, a piece of legislation introduced by Toronto MPP Cheri Di Novo to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder as a workplace health and safety issue for paramedics and other emergency first responders, passed second reading. The bill is currently in committee where a group of MPPs will look at it in detail before voting on it at third reading, one of the final steps required before becoming law.

Chris strongly supports this law. “Any progress is good. We’ve opened a lot of eyes and started a process until we have what we need to protect us. There are 7,900 paramedics in province of Ontario, and 25% could suffer from PTSD during their career. We need to have avenues to accommodate people so that ultimately they can keep doing their job for the long-term.”

Paramedics have a strong sense of caring. Chris mentions his colleague Joe, who volunteers as a peer support counsellor. Fellow Lambton County paramedics can call Joe up and have a discussion about a bad day. It’s confidential, and if they need extra help, Joe will help refer them on to the next step.

Like family, paramedics have to look after each other. But they can’t do it alone. As Chris says, “in the long run, sucking it up about PTSD is only going to hurt us. Everyone has the calls they don’t like going to for personal reasons. We need to address this now for the next generation of paramedics.”