Hepatitis A Virus: Wreaking Havoc for Public Health

Author: Holly Montejano, MS, CIC, CPHQ, VA-BC

Categories: Clinical Pathogens/Alerts, General Infection Prevention & Surface Disinfection August 8, 2022
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Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is not for the faint of heart! This highly contagious and vaccine-preventable virus attacks the liver, with symptoms including fever, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), stomach pain, lack of appetite, and nausea, and for otherwise healthy individuals, reaching the road to recovery could take several weeks 1.

Young children often have no symptoms of the illness. However, for those with underlying liver issues, this illness can lead to liver failure and even death 1.  Hepatitis A virus is often spread person-to-person via the fecal-oral route or from consuming contaminated food or water 1. This virus is resilient and very difficult to kill, allowing it to live on surfaces for months outside the human body.

The National Impact of Hepatitis A:

Hepatitis A remains a challenge for public health across the nation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Hepatitis A incidence has increased by 1,325% from 2015-2019 2. This increase was due to an unprecedented number of person-to-person outbreaks in 31 states. Among the reported cases with injection drug use (IDU) information available, 46% of cases reported the behavior; individuals experiencing homelessness are also at elevated risk for Hepatitis A 2.

A 2019 Morbidity and Mortality Report (MMWR) also reports an increase in reported infections in men who have sex with men (MSM), and to a lesser extent, cases associated with consumption of HAV-contaminated food 3.

The importance of those who are eligible to receive the HAV vaccine, as well as appropriate handwashing and surface cleaning in both food handling and healthcare environments cannot be underestimated from a public health and infection prevention perspective!

Climate Change and Hepatitis A:

In 2019 The Lancet reviewed the impact of climate change on Hepatitis A, particularly in countries where the virus is considered endemic 4.  Climate change impacts global health in the form of natural disasters involving flooding- and the transmissibility of waterborne infections, one of which is HAV 4.  The impacts of climate change are felt around the globe, and certainly here in the United States with the threat of heavy rains causing flooding which can potentiate compromised sewer systems; HAV infections can become problematic from an environmental standpoint causing clusters of infections post-flood.

Hepatitis A Virus Prevention:

While there is a vaccine for Hepatitis A, most people in the US only receive this if they are traveling abroad to an area with endemic infection or if they have been exposed to a known contact 1. If you think you may have been exposed to someone infected with this virus you should contact your physician or your local health department to receive the hepatitis A vaccine, and if it is decided that you are a high-risk, close contact you may also be given an injection of immune globulin.

To help control the spread of HAV through the environment, PDI can help with our EPA-registered Sani- Cloth® Bleach Germicidal Disposable Wipes—a great tool for surface disinfection.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#transmission 

2. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/statistics/2019surveillance/HepA.htm 

3. Foster, Monique A., et al. “Increase in hepatitis A virus infections—United States, 2013–2018.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 68.18 (2019): 413. 

4. Pourkarim, Mahmoud Reza, et al. “Natural disasters pose a challenge for hepatitis elimination in Iran.” The lancet. Gastroenterology & hepatology 4.8 (2019): 581-582.

Author

Holly Montejano MS, CIC, CPHQ, VA-BC
holly Clinical Science Liaison, PDI Gulf Coast

Profile

Holly’s passion for infectious disease epidemiology developed during her undergraduate studies at University of Connecticut, where she studied biology and anthropology – and the profound impact of disease on people, public health and within healthcare systems. This passion led to a graduate program focused in infectious disease epidemiology and a post-graduate epidemic intelligence service (EIS) fellowship in public health, and a graduate certification in infection control at the University of South Florida.

After several years as a public health epidemiologist, Holly transitioned into infection prevention and healthcare epidemiology where she currently is part of a dynamic clinical affairs team, supporting the Gulf Coast region as a Clinical Science Liaison (CSL).

Contact

Phone: 321.439.7923

Company Website: Pdihc.com

Email: Holly.Montejano@pdihc.com

Hobbies

Interior design
Beach staycations
Little League baseball and softball

Education

University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Bachelor of Science in Biology and Anthropology

Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Master of Science in Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences (Epidemiology and Infectious Disease)

Certification
Certification Board of Infection Control (CBIC)- CIC
Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (NAHQ)- CPHQ
Vascular Access- Board Certified (VA-BC)
Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certification
Prosci Change Management Certification

Why I love what I do

Infectious disease epidemiology – from both a biological and anthropological standpoint – have always been a passion of mine. Studying the effects of disease on populations (from a public health standpoint and from that of an Infection Preventionist) has fueled my interest in patient safety and quality outcomes initiatives. My work of providing clinical expertise and evidence-based guidance on infection prevention products (which are used in communities and healthcare systems daily) bolsters the satisfaction I experience in this role.

Areas of Expertise

Microbiology and infectious disease transmission
Infection Prevention
Patient Safety and healthcare quality
Safety culture
Public Health
Vascular access
Environmental disinfection
Performance Improvement
Education

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