NSW HEPATITIS INFOLINE

Hepatitis B was no barrier to having a baby

Hepatitis B was no barrier to having a baby

Hep B no barrier to having a baby

Image: Adobe Stock

Amanda, one of our Hepatitis Speakers, has written a guest blog post about her experience of living with hepatitis B. 한국어로 읽기

I did not understand what effect hepatitis B would have on the rest of my life

I first found out that I had hepatitis B when I was a student at high school in South Korea. Since I was only then a teenager, I did not understand what effect hepatitis B would have on the rest of my life. At that time, hep B information was not well disseminated to people in my country, so my family vaguely thought it had to do with having unhealthy livers. Unfortunately, it was much worse than that and, because of hepatitis B, I lost my grandmother, my aunt and, finally, my father.

I didn’t know much about the virus or how it was transmitted

After school, I went to college and studied Early Childhood Education. Although I was able to complete the course, it was believed there was a possibility my hep B virus could be transmitted to children, and I was not able to become a kindergarten teacher. This was very upsetting, and I had to find a different kind of work. After much searching, I discovered I was interested in – and good at – baking, so I eventually got a job in a bakery. Even so, I was still worried about transmitting hepatitis B. As I mentioned, I didn’t know much about the virus or how it was passed on, and I was concerned about making and handling food. If only I’d known then what I know now, I would not have worried as much!

I worried a lot and feared that my baby might also get hepatitis B

A few years later, I moved to Australia, met my loved one here, got married and, last year, had a beautiful son.

While I was expecting, I worried a lot and feared that the baby might also get my hepatitis. Fortunately, the hospital staff knew better. They gave me special care, continuously monitoring and managing my hep B, along with my pregnancy.

On the day my son came into the world, the midwife and the nurse put him, still covered in blood, on my stomach so he could feel my warm skin. But I screamed at them “Don’t you know I have hep B? Please go and give him his injection right now!” I needn’t have panicked though. They explained the first immunoglobulin injection, for a newborn baby of a mum with hepatitis B, can be done within the first 12 hours. After I spent a short while with my little boy, the nurses took him, washed him and gave him the injection. It was then I was happily able to hold him in my arms.

A baby who has a mum with hepatitis B will need a total of four vaccine injections

Raising a baby has not been easy. The doctor has told me that even a mum with hepatitis B can breastfeed her baby, but I have still been a little nervous while breastfeeding him. I am most mindful of blood. When I had a wound once, I put my son far away from me and treated my bleeding carefully.

A baby who has a mum with hepatitis B will need a total of four hepatitis B vaccine injections. At birth, then in six weeks, in four months and, finally, in six months. My son has finished all four but has not yet been tested for antibodies as he is not one year old. I am optimistic that his body has generated antibodies and immunity against hepatitis B since we have done everything we needed to. We are waiting for good news, but I cannot help but still be a bit anxious.

Because I am raising a baby, I have become more cautious about others too. I know that I cannot pass on hep B through casual contact, but I now ask parents of babies about vaccinations and hep B status. I do not want them thinking or saying that their child could get hep B from me.

I am proud to see my son grow up healthy

I am proud to see my son grow up healthy and without any major problems. I will make sure that I have regular monitoring of my liver every six months and am hopeful of a long healthy life with my loving family.

For any person living with hepatitis B, I would say to them that you can monitor your liver function every six months. You will only ever have to take medication for hep B if recommended. By doing this you can live as well as people without the virus. It is good for your peace of mind!

Published 20 May, 2020

Amanda has excitedly notified us that her one year old son now has antibodies against hepatitis B. That means he is immune to hep B for life. Congratulations, Amanda and your son! Your vigilance and proper knowledge has paid off!
[25 May, 2020]

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What is World Hepatitis Day?

What is World Hepatitis Day? On July 28 every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) sponsors World Hepatitis Day, a global alert around viral hepatitis. Prevention, diagnosis and treatment are promoted through free hepatitis testing screenings, information campaigns, entertainment, media engagement and vaccination drives.

Why recognise World Hepatitis Day?

Millions of people worldwide are affected by viral hepatitis, with tens of thousands dying every year. Of greatest concern are hep B and hep C – two viruses that can become life-long chronic conditions, eventually leading to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and, all too often, death. A significant percentage of people living with hep B or hep C are unaware they have it. Even where people know their status, hundreds of thousands are unable to access healthcare, treatment, or cure. World Hepatitis Day is an important event to highlight these issues and drive better outcomes.

Why is hepatitis still a problem?

Around the world, the toll on liver health and the number of deaths caused by hep B and hep C varies sharply from country to country. Some countries are much more able to address viral hepatitis for their people. Poorer outcomes are due to poverty, social inequalities, inadequate information, stigma and discrimination, struggling public health systems, ineffective government policy and/or the lack of political will. Despite advances in medicine and treatment, there is no single easy solution for eliminating hep B and hep C.

How does Australia compare?

Fortunately, in terms of elimination of viral hepatitis, Australia is one of the leading countries in the world. Australia has strong health policies, programs, campaigns, and services as part of an effective strategy to address viral hepatitis.

How is Australia addressing hepatitis C?

For hep C, all Australians over the age of 12 have access to effective and affordable direct acting antiviral (DAA) cures. Treatment is available through local doctors. There are services, such as Needle Syringe Programs, that help reduce risk of transmission. Community organisations and government agencies work to raise awareness of the cure and help people into and through treatment.

How is Australia’s strategy to address hepatitis B performing?

For hep B, while there is currently no cure, babies born in Australia are vaccinated against it; also, any adult who needs to be vaccinated can be. Testing is available and encouraged for anyone from an at-risk group. Should a person be found to be living with hep B they can have regular monitoring of their liver health, and, if required, treatment to manage their viral load.

What is the impact of hepatitis-related stigma and discrimination?

is doing well but there are still issues of stigma and discrimination which prevent or deter people from accessing testing and treatment. Many people remain unaware of the lifesaving treatment options available to them. Myths and misconceptions about transmission and treatment persist in some communities.

Are we ensuring equal access to health services and programs?

While health services are usually easily accessible for most people in the capital cities, that is not the case for regional and remote communities. Poverty and disadvantage significantly impact the ability of too many Australians to access services. The lack of Needle Syringe Programs in prisons leads to greater hep C infection and re-infection rates amongst prisoners. These areas, and others, need work if Australia is to succeed in eliminating viral hepatitis.

How is World Hepatitis Day observed in Australia?

Across Australia, the day is supported by many government agencies, non-government organisations, clinicians, researchers, and communities. They might hold events, education sessions, display banners or posters, or talk to the media. Hepatitis organisations, similar to Hepatitis NSW, exist in every state, territory and federally; World Hepatitis Day marks a particularly busy time of campaign work, and community and stakeholder engagement for us.

In addition to World Hepatitis Day, New South Wales holds Hepatitis Awareness Week over the seven days leading up to and including July 28. This is sponsored by NSW Health and allows community organisations, Local Health Districts (LHDs), and prison clinics across the state to highlight hep C and hep B oriented messages, services and events for their respective communities.

Unfortunately, for 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic will overshadow World Hepatitis Day and NSW Hepatitis Awareness Week. At this stage we cannot say for certain which events or campaigns and services will be promoted in late July. Keep an eye on our social media, events calendar and The Champion for regular updates.

A final thought

Viral hepatitis exists year in, year out, and World Hepatitis Day itself isn’t going to be a cure-all, nor is it meant to be. July 28 acts as a focus for international and local efforts in elimination – to applaud the successes, to highlight existing need, and advocate for changes.

Hep facts

  • July 28 celebrates the birthdate of Baruch Samuel Blumberg, discoverer of the hepatitis B virus.
  • World Hepatitis Day is one of only eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • There are currently five different hepatitis viruses – A, B, C, D, and E. Each one can significantly impact liver health and, in some cases, lead to death. In Australia, only hep B and hep C are significant community issues.
  • Hepatitis D – which only occurs in people with advanced cases of hepatitis B – and hepatitis A, and hepatitis E – both mainly transmitted via faecal contamination in water, or unwashed hands – are all rare in Australia.

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Mandatory Disease Testing a futile and stigmatising exercise

Hepatitis NSW firmly rejects the premise behind the proposed laws outlined in a joint media release – Mandatory Disease Testing for Those Who Attack Frontline Workers – issued yesterday by the offices of NSW Justice Ministers David Elliott, Anthony Roberts, and Mark Speakman.

 

Mandatory Disease Testing a futile and stigmatising exercise

The proposed bill won’t address risk to frontline workers

Hepatitis NSW CEO Steven Drew said, “Hepatitis NSW strongly supports the wellbeing and safety o

f emergency services personnel. We agree they must be protected as much as possible in a high-level occupational risk environment.”

Mr Drew said, “This proposed Bill will not responsibly address the fundamental issue of risk to frontline workers.”

There is no risk of hep C or hep B transmission through saliva

Any decision on mandatory testing should be based on medical and scientific evidence. The risk and likelihood of transmitting blood borne viruses (BBVs) – hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV – through contact with saliva or spitting is effectively zero. Testing people who have not genuinely placed other people at risk is futile. The emergency worker may, in fact, miss out on health protections due to such a misinformed approach.”

Mr Drew said, “NSW has, until now, had a long and proud history of leadership in bipartisan, evidence-based, considered public policy responses that balance public health and individuals’ human rights. This proposed approach does a disservice to NSW as a national leader.”

Community organisations have not been consulted on the policy

Hepatitis NSW is extremely disappointed that this futile policy has been committed to by the government without consulting community organisations with history, knowledge, and experience in BBV responses. The policy will stigmatise communities and people affected by blood borne viruses, and potentially any frontline worker subject to the flawed response. There are no gains to be made for public health nor Work Health and Safety.”

Emergency workers are best protected by well-informed risk management

“This is irresponsible and is not conducive to the development of evidence-based, reasoned policy responses,” said Mr Drew. Frontline workers’ work health and safety are best protected by a well-informed risk management approach; this includes vaccination for hepatitis B and, where any blood to blood exposure risk occurs, a rapid assessment and response by medical staff.”

 

For more information, please contact:

Hepatitis NSW
Steven Drew, CEO
sdrew@hep.org.au
0402 518 285

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