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Thursday, 24 February 1977
Page: 525

Mr Morris asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

(   1 ) Has his attention been drawn to an article published in the Sun Heraldof 6 February 1977 relating to hepatitis.

(2)   If so, is it a fact that (a) hepatitis can seriously affect a person 's drive, eating habits, disposition and socialising long after recovery from the illness (b) hepatitis effectively limits for a long time the intake of alcohol and (c) because viral hepatitis is caused by a virus it is therefore contagious.

(   3 ) Is it also a fact that the following precautions should be followed when dealing with an infected person: (a) eating equipment, knife, fork, spoon, plate and cup should be isolated and scalded after cleansing it separately, (b) clothing should be washed separately and (c) reading material, such as books, magazines and newspapers, should be kept separately.

(4)   Would it be a responsible gesture for people in the same work situation as a newly infected person to be advised immediately so that they can seek protective immunisation if a doctor deems it necessary.

(5)   Is it also a fact that telephones, the interchangeable canteen cup and even typewriter keys can carry the virus.

Mr Hunt - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   (a) This depends on the definition of 'recovery'. A person 's full recovery has only occurred when all the adverse effects of the nature quotedhave disappeared. This disease is known to require a long 'convalescence' in many casesconvalescence being defined as the period between the cessation of the 'acute' symptoms of the disease, and final full recovery.

(b)   The intake of alcohol could deleteriously affect the patient's liver- for this reason it is usually recommended that such people avoid alcohol for a period after the illness.

(c)   Hepatitis is certainly infectious and can spread from one person to another by what is known as the 'faecal-oral' route. Close contact including sexual intercourse can also spread the disease.

(3)   (a) Yes, during the acute phase of the illness.

(b)   Preferably, particularly underclothing, although a thorough boiling of all clothes together would destroy the virus and thus prevent spread to other people 's clothing.

(c)   Preferably, during the acute infectious stage.

(4)   Yes.

(5)   Yes, if the patient is not extremely thorough in his or her personal hygiene- particularly hand washing.

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