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Fire fighters will commemorate World Hepatitis Day

Obviously, fire fighters risk their lives when they fight fires. But you probably never realized they also risk their lives when they provide medical aid to people.

That’s why the Tallahassee Fire Department and Hepatitis Ready Care organization will commemorate World Hepatitis Day on Wednesday. The event will be at 10 a.m. at Fire Station 3 at 3005 S. Monroe St.

“I think this will bring awareness that anyone can get this disease and they can get it while working,” said Cherry Douglas, founder and director of Ready Care. “We should be thankful that fire fighters go to work every day.”

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can lead to illness or worse: 13,000 Americans die each year from hepatitis. Though often perceived as a result of drug or sexual activities, it is more commonly spread through contact with infected blood or infected people.

Health care workers, including fire fighters, can contract the disease while dealing with an infected person. In Florida, seven fire fighters have died after contracting hepatitis while performing their jobs. No Tallahassee fire fighter has died from contracting hepatitis on the job. But 70 percent of all calls the Tallahassee Fire Department require a medical response by fire fighters, from car crashes to heart attacks and seizures.

“We take preventive measures,” said TFD spokesman Travis Oaks. “It’s definitely something we have our guard up for.”

Douglas, who contracted Hepatitis C from a blood tranfusion 30 years ago, founded Ready Care after the 2007 death of her son, Rob Douglas, a recent college graduate, who also had the disease. None of the three most prevalent forms of hepatitis, A, B or C, reveal symptoms until their damage is severe. Douglas urges everyone to have their blood tested annually.

“It’s important to get treatment before you get sicker,” she said.

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