"Reports of Hepatitis C infections among Dialysis patients in the United States are rising, largely because of poor infection control practices, health officials say," according to WebMD.com. Within one year a whopping thirty-six (36) cases of Hepatitis C were reported in just 19 clinics in a sample of only eight (8) states. Medscape.com noted that the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection remains "common in patients undergoing long-term Dialysis," and is "significantly associated with lower survival in Dialysis populations (patients)." Fortunately, there are some steps Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients, especially those conducting Dialysis, can take to better protect themselves and help to improve their health outcomes.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study revealed that Hepatitis C reached an all-time high of over 19,659 cases in one year. "Hepatitis C related deaths outnumbered deaths from 60 other infectious diseases combined, including HIV, Pneumococcal Disease (can range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections), and Tuberculosis (a potentially serious infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs)," said the CDC.
The highest burden of Hepatitis C falls on baby boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965), who make up a large portion of the Chronic Kidney Disease Community, especially among those conducting Dialysis. Older patients may have been unknowingly infected during medical procedures in the years following World War II, and many of whom remain unaware they have even contracted the disease, reported the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Hence, since most Dialysis patients Dialyze or regularly visit In-Center Hemodialysis Facilities and Hospitals, they may be at a higher risk of contracting HCV from a contaminated surface or medical instrument.
Let's be clear, the cause for the high rate of Hepatitis C Virus infections in Chronic Kidney Disease patients is not completely understood, and it is probably related to several factors. However, there are actions that (1) patients can take to protect themselves, (2) Healthcare Professionals can implement to limit the risk of infection, and (3) patients can ensure that their Healthcare Teams are abiding by to further reduce the risk of infections. Consider the following tips:
1. Wiping Down Chair And Accessories: All Dialysis Patient Care Technicians are expected to wipe down chairs between different patient treatment sessions. However, with dozens of patients to attend to at any given time, Patient Care Technicians must sometimes wipe down chairs very quickly, and they may miss something. Therefore, patients should consider bringing Disinfection Wipes or asking for additional sanitizing wipes to carefully clean their chairs and chair accessories. Be sure to wipe down television remotes, blood pressure cuff and remote chords, head rests, and the arms of the chairs which may be missed, but can be hubs for germs.
2. Wearing Gloves: Make sure that your Healthcare Professional wears clean gloves. This is fairly straightforward, but should not be undervalued in terms of effectiveness. If your Doctor, Nurse, or Patient Care Technician appears to be working on multiple people with the same pair of gloves, then it is very easy to inadvertently transmit viruses. If you do not think that your Healthcare Professional changed gloves, just ask. They will be happy to assure you that they have or immediately change them before proceeding with you.
3. Washing Hands: Of course patients should make sure that their caretakers wash their hands. Still, it is important for Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients to wash their hands as well. Since Dialysis Clinics and Hospitals are hotbeds for germs, patients should always wash their hands after leaving facilities and try to avoid touching their eyes, mouths, noses, and faces.
4. Watch Where You Put Your Bag: If you carry a Dialysis Bag or purse to your treatments, then be very mindful where you place it. Do not rest your items in wet areas or places that appear stained. If you carry your bag home, then try to have a designated area for it and do not place the bag on counter tops or on your bed to avoid accidentally transmitting germs.
5. Get Plenty Of Rest: While it is not always easy, getting rest and staying restful is important in fighting off viral infections. Your body’s immune system is trying to do the necessary work. It can’t do this successfully if you are tired. Dr. Matthew Edlund suggests if you can't sleep, a rest can be just as curative as sleep. Try laying down, closing your eyes, breathing calmly, and thinking of positive thoughts. "Rest can make you more alert and effective, reduce stress levels and give you a better chance of a healthier and longer life," noted Dr. Edlund.
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