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Tampa Firefighter dies due to complications from Hepatitis-C. Three
other Firefighters test positive.
2,100 Philadelphia Firefighters tested for Hepatitis-C. More than 6%
test positive, 300% greater than the national average of 1.8% for the
These headlines are becoming far to common for Firefighters and
Emergency workers. Alan P. Brownstein, President and CEO of The American
Liver Foundation, states "Hepatitis-C, as an emerging infectious
disease, is one of the most serious public health problems that the
United States will face as we begin the new millennium."
The Hepatitis-C Virus (Hepatitis C Virus) was first identified in 1989.
Four million Americans have been exposed to Hepatitis C Virus and many do not
realize they are infected.
10,000 Patients die every year in the united States due to Hepatitis C Virus
related causes. The number of deaths is expected to increase to 30,000
annually in the next 10 to 15 years.
There is no vaccine to prevent against Hepatitis-C.
There is no cure for Hepatitis-C.
Hepatitis C Virus is the number one cause of liver transplantation.
Many times Hepatitis-C is undiagnosed due to the mild symptoms in
the early stages as a result 80-90% of cases become chronic and lead
to liver disease.
The American Liver Foundation included Firefighters in its group of
people that are more vulnerable to Hepatitis C Virus. Firefighters who in the course
of their duties find themselves in many situations where they are
exposed to blood, this increases their risk of exposure to Hepatitis-C.
This is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
in an October 1998 report on Hepatitis-C "Healthcare, Emergency Medical
(e.g., Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics), and Public Safety
Workers (e.g., Fire service, Law Enforcement ...) who have exposure to
blood in the workplace are at risk for being infected with Blood Borne
Pathogens." Almost any direct or indirect exposure to infected blood can
transmit the Hepatitis-C virus.
Hepatitis-C is one of several Communicable Diseases that Fire and
Emergency workers need protection from by means of Presumptive
Legislation. The Tampa Firefighters affected by Hepatitis-C will be
considered occupationally exposed if they meet certain criteria as
spelled out in Florida's "Presumption of Exposure" statute (112.181 F.S.).
Florida's statute covers Meningcococcal Meningitis and Tuberculosis as
well as Hepatitis. New York State and California also have Presumptive
statutes covering Blood Borne Pathogens including HIV, Tuberculosis and
Hepatitis. There are currently several Senate and House Bills in the
Legislative process in Pennsylvania that call for the Screening,
Diagnosis, Treatment, Follow Up, Education and Presumption of Exposure
for Communicable Diseases. There are several States which currently have
different degrees of Communicable Diseases Legislation under revue.
Michigan has the unique opportunity to help protect those who protect
others. Hepatitis-C, The Silent Epidemic, needs to be brought to the
forefront. The Thousands of Fire Service and Emergency workers in
Michigan deserve the peace of mind that comes with Presumptive /
Communicable Disease Legislation.