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    Viral Hepatitis: Eight Ways to Help Protect Your Family

    Protect yourself and your family with these eight steps.


    These items can harbor traces of the owner’s blood. If the owner has hepatitis, using them can transmit the disease.

    “We’ve even seen a rash of outbreaks of hepatitis B related to diabetics sharing their blood glucose-monitoring equipment, mainly in elder-care facilities,” Ward says. Also, if you’ve had hepatitis B or C, don’t donate blood, organs, or tissue.

    6. Keep sex safe.

    All three main forms of hepatitis can be spread by sexual contact. So it’s important to know something about your partner’s personal history -- and to use a latex condom unless you’re sure you are both monogamous and uninfected. Be aware that certain sex acts are particularly risky.

    “Any sexual practice with an increased likelihood of trauma, including anal sex and rough sex, is associated with an increased risk of transmission of both HCV and HBV,” Palmer says. What’s more, she says, “The likelihood of becoming infected with HBV grows with the number of sexual partners a person has.”

    7. Watch what you eat and drink.

    Even if you and your family members are careful about hand washing before eating and after using the bathroom, it’s possible to get hepatitis from food that’s been prepared by people who aren’t quite so fastidious.

    In general, fresh fruits, vegetables, sandwiches, salads, and other uncooked foods are more likely than cooked foods to transmit hepatitis. And because shellfish is sometimes harvested from contaminated water, think twice before eating raw mussels, clams, oysters, and shrimp. Traveling in a country with poor sanitation? Avoid tap water and uncooked foods. Consume ice cubes only if you’re sure they were made from bottled water.

    8. Know your family history.

    Viral hepatitis is especially common in certain parts of the world, including Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Amazon basin, and Asia.

    It’s important to know whether a family member (including an adopted child) was born in one of these regions, so that he/she can get a simple blood test to check for hepatitis.

    “We recommend that people be screened for hepatitis if they were born in a country where hepatitis B rates are high,” says Ward. “Anytime one member of the household is found to be infected, all family members should be screened.”

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    Reviewed on January 07, 2010

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