How Common Is Hepatitis C
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention think that 2.4 million Americans are infected with HCV. It is the most common infection carried by blood in the United States. Veterans have higher rates of hepatitis C than the rest of the country so it is especially important to discuss hepatitis C testing with your provider if you are a Veteran. But, Veterans are not the only ones with high rates of hepatitis C. Baby boomers have higher rates of hepatitis C than people in other age groups in the country as well. Often, people infected with hepatitis C are not aware of their infection because they have no symptoms and they do not feel ill so getting tested if you are at higher risk is important step.
What Is A Hepatitis C Virus
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and also can be part of the name of viral infections that affect the liver, including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Each of the hepatitis diseases are caused by different viruses. The hepatitis C virus is a spherical, enveloped RNA virus that targets liver cells, known as hepatocytes. When HCV replicates, sometimes mutant viruses are produced. Mutated HCV makes it harder for the immune system to detect. The addition of mutant viruses may explain the variable clinical course and pose a challenge for the development of a vaccine. In fact, there are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B, but there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. In addition, antibiotics do not work on viruses, because they are designed to target bacteria.
Living With Hepatitis C
Coping with hepatitis C isnt easy. You may feel sad, scared, or angry. You may not believe you have the disease. These feelings are normal, but they shouldnt keep you from living your daily life. If they do or if they last a long time you may be suffering from depression. People who are depressed have most or all of the following symptoms nearly every day, all day, for 2 weeks or longer:
- Feeling sad, hopeless and having frequent crying spells.
- Losing interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy .
- Feeling guilty, helpless, or worthless.
- Thinking about death or suicide.
- Sleeping too much or having problems sleeping.
- Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss or gain.
- Feeling very tired all the time.
- Having trouble paying attention and making decisions.
- Having aches and pains that dont get better with treatment.
- Feeling restless, irritated, and easily annoyed.
Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. Your doctor can help by recommending a support group or a therapist. He or she may also prescribe a medicine for you to take.
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If I Have Hepatitis C Infection Does This Mean I Am Going To Have Other Health Problems
Hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Other conditions have also been linked to hepatitis C and are known as extra-hepatic manifestations of hepatitis C. They include diabetes mellitus, arthritis, hypothyroid, and aplastic anemia among other conditions. Talk to your provider for more information.
Who Is More Likely To Get Hepatitis C
People more likely to get hepatitis C are those who
- have injected drugs
- had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
- have been on kidney dialysis
- have been in contact with blood or infected needles at work
- have had tattoos or body piercings
- have worked or lived in a prison
- were born to a mother with hepatitis C
- are infected with HIV
- have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months or have a history of sexually transmitted disease
- are men who have or had sex with men
In the United States, injecting drugs is the most common way that people get hepatitis C.13
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How Is Hepatitis A Infection Prevented
- The hepatitis A vaccine offers excellent protection against HAV. The vaccine is safe and highly effective. Vaccination consists of 2 doses of vaccine spaced 6-12 months apart. Protection starts 1-2 weeks after the first dose of vaccine, and lasts for 20 years to life after 2 doses.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children should receive hepatitis A vaccine starting at 1 year of age .
- The CDC recommends hepatitis A vaccine for all persons traveling to countries where HAV is common . For infants that will be traveling internationally, an early dose of Hepatitis A vaccine can be given at age 6-11 months.
- People who have hepatitis A infection become immune to HAV for the rest of their lives once they recover. They cannot get hepatitis A twice.
- The blood test for immunity to hepatitis A is called the Hepatitis A Total Antibody test. People who have had hepatitis A and those who have received hepatitis A vaccine show positive antibodies to hepatitis A on this test for the rest of their life.
- Good personal hygiene and proper sanitation help prevent the spread of the HAV virus. Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing, serving, or eating food.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill the hepatitis A virus
After Exposure to HAV
Medical Treatment For Hepatitis A B & C
Treatment for hepatitis A, B, or C is based on which type of hepatitis is present in the bloodstream and the severity of the resulting liver damage. Depending on the results of diagnostic tests, our specialists at NYU Langone may recommend antiviral medication to stop the virus from replicating and protect your liver from further damage.
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Is There A Way To Avoid Hepatitis C
There is currently no vaccine that protects people from hepatitis C. However, there are vaccines for other hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A and hepatitis B. According to the CDC, researchers are also working on developing a vaccine against hepatitis C.
If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, your doctor may advise you to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. This is because these viruses can also cause liver damage and complications during the treatment of hepatitis C.
Since hepatitis C cannot be avoided with the vaccine, the best prevention is to avoid exposure. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne pathogen, so you can limit your chances of exposure by practicing a healthy lifestyle.
Avoid sharing needles. Use the appropriate protocol if you will be exposed to body fluids, for example in first aid. Hepatitis C is not usually transmitted through sexual contact, but it is possible. Limit your exposure to condom use unless you and your partner are monogamous.
Because hepatitis C is transmitted through the blood, it can be obtained by transfusion. However, blood infusion testing has been available since 1992. It is recommended that you consult your doctor about testing for hepatitis C if you are a baby boomer or have received a transplant or blood transfusion before 1992. years.
Are There Alternative Medicines
Some people believe that certain forms of alternative medicine help treat hepatitis C. M
Milk thistle and silymarin are herbs that are usually recommended for the treatment of liver disease. In addition, artmisinin is mentioned as an antiviral agent that has been shown to be excellent in combination with hepatitis drugs. Artemisinin is an anti-malarial drug that has very pronounced anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Do I need treatment?
- What treatment is best for me?
- What medicines should I take?
- Are there any medicines I should avoid?
- How can I cope with the side effects of treatment?
- Is there a therapist I can talk to?
- How long will my treatment last?
- Can hepatitis C be cured?
- Are organ transplants and blood transfusions safe?
- Is it safe for me to get pregnant?
Hiv And Hepatitis C Coinfection
HCV infection is common among people with HIV who also inject drugs. Nearly 75% of people living with HIV who report a history of injection drug use are co-infected with HCV. All people who are diagnosed with HIV are recommended to be tested for HCV at least once. People living with HIV are at greater risk for complications and death from HCV infection. Fortunately, direct acting antivirals that are used to treat HCV work equally well in people with and without HIV infection. For more information about HIV and HCV coinfection, visit the HIV.govs pages about hepatitis C and HIV coinfection.
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Who Can Access The Cures
Hep C cures are now available to everyone in Australia who has hep C.* The national and state governments want everyone with hep C to be cured, including prisoners and people who inject drugs. Now is a very good time to consider testing for hep C or speaking to your doctor about the hep C cures.
*Cures are available to people who have a Medicare Card or Health Care Concession Card and who arent hospital inpatients.
You might be able to access healthcare and the cures via your computer or phone.
How Can I Protect Myself From Hepatitis C Infection
If you dont have hepatitis C, you can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by
- not sharing drug needles or other drug materials
- wearing gloves if you have to touch another persons blood or open sores
- making sure your tattoo artist or body piercer uses sterile tools and unopened ink
- not sharing personal items such toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers
Hepatitis C can spread from person to person during sex, but the chances are low. People who have multiple sex partners, have HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, or who engage in rough or anal sex have a higher chance of getting hepatitis C. Talk with your doctor about your risk of getting hepatitis C through sex and about safe sex practices, such as using a latex or polyurethane condom to help prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
If you had hepatitis C in the past and your body fought off the infection or medicines cured the infection, you can get hepatitis C again. Follow the steps above, and talk with your doctor about how to protect yourself from another hepatitis C infection.
If you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage.
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Can I Get Reinfected With Hepatitis C
If you become infected with hepatitis C infection and then clear the virus , yes, it is possible for you to become infected again.
The chance of another infection with hepatitis C is much, much less than the chance of a first-time infection, but it is not impossible. It has happened in people who continue to use injection drugs, and some studies suggest that it happens even more often in people who are also HIV positive.
In other words, having had hepatitis C once does not make you “immune” to getting hepatitis C again.
The best way to avoid reinfection is to reduce risky behaviors that can result in exposure to the hepatitis C virus: Do not use injection drugs, do not share needles for any reason, avoid blood-to-blood exposures with others, and use condoms if you are sexually active with a new partner or with a partner who has used injection drugs.
The research in this area is ongoing, and we will continue to learn more about this very important topic. But for now, preventing re-exposure to the hepatitis C virus is the only sure way of avoiding infection and reinfection with hepatitis C.
Hep C Treatment Side Effects
The liver is the most important organ in our body and when its damaged, there can be irreversible effects. In fact nearly 400 thousand people are killed by this virus each year! It mainly affects those who live in developing countries because they dont have access to treatment or high prices for drugs that could cure them.
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Daas Are Pangenotypic And Treat All Hep C Genotypes
A genotype is a variation within the hepatitis C virus, and there are several common variants: genotype 1, genotype 2, and so on. Depending on a persons genotype, the interferon/ribavirin treatment, was not suitable for everyone. That has changed with the Direct Acting Anti-virals.While DAAs were initially only effective on certain genotypes during their first year of availability in Australia, newer DAA versions are pangenotypic able to be used with all genotypes of the virus. This is great news for everyone, regardless of their genotype.
How Is It Tested For And Diagnosed
After you discuss your symptoms with your doctor, they may order a blood test to check for the presence of a viral or bacterial infection. A blood test will reveal the presence of the hepatitis A virus.
Some people have only a few symptoms and no signs of jaundice. Without visible signs of jaundice, its hard to diagnose any form of hepatitis through a physical examination. When symptoms are minimal, hepatitis A can remain undiagnosed. Complications due to a lack of diagnosis are rare.
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What Causes Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is caused by infection with the hepatitis C virus. The virus is spread from person to person through contact with blood. People who use intravenous drugs can get hepatitis C when they share needles with someone who has the virus. Health care workers can be exposed to hepatitis C. They can become infected if they are accidentally stuck with a needle that was used on an infected patient. You are also at a higher risk if you got a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before 1992.
Hepatitis C cant be spread unless a person has direct contact with infected blood. This means a person who has hepatitis C cannot pass the virus to others through casual contact such as:
- using public toilets
- touching doorknobs
Diagnosis Of Hepatitis C
If you are at risk of hepatitis C infection, or think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C in the past, see your doctor for an assessment of your liver health. This will include blood tests and possibly a non-invasive test for liver damage .
There are 2 blood tests used to diagnose hepatitis C. Usually these can be done at the same time but sometimes they will be done separately.
The first test known as a hepatitis C antibody test can tell you whether you have ever been exposed to hepatitis C.
It may take 2 to 3 months from the time of infection until a blood test can detect antibodies to hepatitis C, so there is a window period during which you cannot tell if you are or have been infected. In this time, take precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
The second test is called hepatitis C PCR, which will be done if the antibody test is positive. This determines if the virus is still present in your blood or liver or if you have already cleared the infection.
If you have cleared the virus or had successful treatment to cure it, the PCR test will be negative.
A liver ultrasound or Fibroscan can also be performed to assess if you have any liver damage.
If your doctor is inexperienced in diagnosing hepatitis C you can call the LiverLine on for information, and to find a GP who can help you.
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Can Hepatitis B Be Prevented
The hepatitis B vaccine is one of the best ways to control the disease. It is safe, effective and widely available. More than one billion doses of the vaccine have been administered globally since 1982. The World Health Organization says the vaccine is 98-100% effective in guarding against the virus. Newborns should be vaccinated.
The disease has also been more widely prevented thanks to:
- Widespread global adoption of safe blood-handling practices. WHO says 97% of the blood donated around the world is now screened for HBV and other diseases.
- Safer blood injection practices, using clean needles.
- Safe-sex practices.
You can help prevent hepatitis B infections by:
- Practicing safe sex .
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What Does High/low Viral Load Mean
Viral load is the amount of virus present in the bloodstream. It is expressed as the amount of viral genetic material per milliliter of blood. The amount of virus does not predict how severe the liver disease is or will become. The level of the viral load does not tell us anything about the risk of liver damage or how sick someone is. In hepatitis C, it matters if virus is present or absent. Some treatment regimens can be shortened if the patient has a low viral load to start with, but most often, treatment regimens are the same for people with high hepatitis C viral loads or low viral loads.
The RNA test is essential for making the diagnosis of hepatitis C infection–having a positive RNA test is the definition of having infection. After the diagnosis is made, the RNA level does not need to be checked over and over unless it is checked during the time that the patient is undergoing treatment. During treatment, regular RNA tests are done to follow the dropping virus level until it reaches an undetectable state. But before treatment and after treatment, repeated RNA testing is not necessary.
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