Firefighter Death Likely Caused by Hepatitis C Virus

Firefighter Jack Barker, 45, of the Tampa (FL) Fire Rescue�s hazardous materials team, recently died from what preliminary autopsy results indicate was liver failure. A final ruling will be made after toxicology tests have been completed. Barker became a firefighter in the late 1970s. He had become aware of having contracted hepatitis C several years ago and began treatment in 1994, but he continued working.

As commonly happens, Barker wasn’t certain when he caught the virus; he had responded to many emergencies over the years that involved coming in contact with blood. The fire department is planning to hire an occupational health nurse

who will screen firefighters for hepatitis C, among other duties. Hepatitis C and other bloodborne infections have become of significant concern for emergency responders. Reportedly, at least three more Tampa firefighters have the virus.

(For additional information, see �Hepatitis C and the Fire Service, Part 1: Assessing the Risk,� and Hepatitis C and the Fire Service, Part 2: Mounting an Offensive,� Fire Engineering, December 2000 and January 2001, respectively.) [Reference: �Firefighter Dies from Virus He Likely Caught on Duty, Ace Atkins, Tampa (FL) Tribune, Jan. 23, 2001]

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