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National HealthWatch Conference Stresses Safety Measures For Healthcare Workers And Patients

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Health officials are urging the community to get a hepatitis A vaccine.

Chris Pontus is an officer with the Massachusetts Nurses Association and she participated in last week's Health Watch USA conference in Lexington.  

The health care professional says medical advice can change over time. 

"My advice was to, at the time 15 years ago, was to give the hepatitis A vaccine to waste treatment workers because, at the time, that was the high risk worker, but now it seems like it's prevalent not only just with high risk personnel," said Pontus.

The board chair for the national non-profit patient advocacy group believes more needs to be done to reduce the spread of dangerous pathogens both in and outside of health care facilities.

Dr. Kevin Kavanagh led the annual Health Watch USA conference.  He says what's probably the most often uttered advice to prevent disease transmission still isn't enough. 

"For example, hand washing which is extremely important, I cannot overstate that.  It is extremely important, but these dangerous pathogens should not be on your hands in the first place.  We need to do something to protect both patients and staff from them," noted Kavanagh.

Kavanagh believes that can come with identifying the carriers and spread of a disease. He says full-contact precautions include isolation, gowns, and gloves.? Kentucky is in the midst of an extensive hepatitis A outbreak with more than 1,800 cases confirmed. In an average year, Kentucky averages about 20 cases of hepatitis A.

Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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