What If You Test Positive For Hepatitis C
- There is currently no cure for Hepatitis C. However, 20% of people who get the virus are able to clear it on their own.
- Chronic Hepatitis C increases the risk of liver damage, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. People who dont clear the virus can use medications to help manage life-long Hepatitis C and should have regular check-ups with their clinician.
- There are different strains of Hepatitis C. Depending on the strain you have and your medical history, you may be able to take medication that increases your chances of clearing the virus.
- Hepatitis C is a reportable infection. This means that if you test positive for Hepatitis C, you may be called by a public health nurse to get contact information for current and past sexual partners so that those people may be encouraged to get tested. Your name is not disclosed when a sexual partner is contacted.
- You can also contact current and past sexual partners yourself. If you wish to do so anonymously, you can use an email program called www.inspot.org.
Risks Of Disease Transmission
Historically, some people have chosen PAD to avoid the transmission of bloodborne diseases. This was especially true in the early- to mid-1980s, when reports came out saying people had been infected with HIV from blood transfusions.
Many hepatitis C infections were also acquired from blood transfusions performed before the viral cause was officially identified in 1989. The perceived risk of a blood transfusion can often exceed the actual risk, particularly with regard to bloodborne infections.
Despite fears of infection from HIV, hepatitis C, and other diseases, transfusions in the United States are considered safe and pose little risk of such transmission.
Since the advent of universal blood screenings in the late 1990s, the risk of acquiring HIV from blood transfusions has dropped to one in every 1.8 million procedures. In fact, the U.S. saw only three confirmed cases of HIV from a blood transfusion between 1999 and 2003.
Similarly, the risk of hepatitis C from contaminated blood is less than one in every two million procedures, according to a 2014 review of studies in the journal Transfusion.
Beyond the risk of infection, the chances of receiving incompatible blood are extremely rare in the U.S. and considered a never event in the United Kingdom.
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It’s Different Than Hepatitis A And B
Each form of hepatitis has its own specific virus that spreads and is treated differently. “Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver, or that the virus has an affinity for hurting the liver,” Reau says.
- Hepatitis A is an acute, short-term infection that often does not require treatment.
- Hepatitis B hides deep in the body and, like hepatitis C, is treated in a variety of ways, from antiviral medications to liver transplants.
“The viruses are different, but all of them should be taken very seriously since they can lead to significant liver disease and even death,” she adds.
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Hepatitis C Testing And Diagnosis
Doctors will start by checking your blood for:
Anti-HCV antibodies: This blood test is the first and sometimes only one you may get. Also called the ELISA screen, it checks for antibodies that your body releases to fight the virus. These are proteins your body makes when it finds the hep C virus in your blood. They usually show up about 12 weeks after infection. Your test will be either negative or positive for antibodies. It usually takes a few days to a week to get results, though a rapid test is available in some places.
What the results mean
Negative . This is when your blood shows no signs of HCV antibodies. Most of the time, thatâs because you never came in contact with the virus and you do not have hep C.
Sometimes, your negative result can be false, meaning you have HCV. That may happen if you:
- Took the test too soon after your exposure. This test checks for only HCV antibodies, which can take several months to appear.
- Have HIV, a donated organ, or other conditions that weaken your immune system, which can suppress your antibodies
- Get hemodialysis for kidney problems
If youâve been exposed in the last 6 months, youâll need to be retested.
Positive . This means youâve been infected with HCV. But false positives are surprisingly common. More than 1 in 5 people who test positive donât actually have hepatitis C. Possible reasons include:
What the results mean
Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented
There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C.
You should avoid sharing needles, syringes or other equipment when injecting medication or drugs.
Avoiding blood-to-blood contact, including during sex, will help prevent infection.
If you have hepatitis C, you cannot donate blood or sperm.
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Needle Use Or Accidental Stick
You can get hepatitis C from:
- Sharing needles and other equipment used to inject drugs.
- Having your ears or another body part pierced, getting a tattoo, or having acupuncture with needles that have not been sterilized properly. The risk of getting hepatitis C in these ways is very low.
- Working in a health care environment where you are exposed to fresh blood or where you may be pricked with a used needle. Following standard precautions for health care workers makes this risk very low.
How Common Is Hepatitis C In The United States
In the United States, hepatitis C is the most common chronic viral infection found in blood and spread through contact with blood.14
Researchers estimate that about 2.7 million to 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.13 Many people who have hepatitis C dont have symptoms and dont know they have this infection.
New screening efforts and more effective hepatitis C treatments are helping doctors identify and cure more people with the disease. With more screening and treatment, hepatitis C may become less common in the future. Researchers estimate that hepatitis C could be a rare disease in the United States by 2036.17
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When To Call A Doctor
911 or other emergency services immediately if you have hepatitis C and you:
- Feel extremely confused or are having hallucinations.
- Are bleeding from the rectum or are vomiting blood.
- You think you may have been infected with hepatitis C.
- You have risk factors for hepatitis C, such as IV drug use.
- You have symptoms of hepatitis C and you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C.
- A home test for hepatitis C virus shows that you have hepatitis C. More testing is needed to find out if you have an active infection.
In most areas, public health clinics or health departments are able to diagnose and provide low-cost assessment and treatment of hepatitis C.
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Can You Give Hepatitis C To Yourself
- There are no known cases in the United States of anyone getting HIV this way.
- However, it is possible to get HIV from tattooing or body piercing if the equipment used for these procedures has someone elses blood in it or if the ink is shared. This is more likely to happen when the person doing the procedure is unlicensed because of the potential for unsanitary practices such as sharing needles or ink.
- If you get a tattoo or a body piercing, be sure that the person doing the procedure is properly licensed and that they use only new or sterilized needles, ink, and other supplies.
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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
Are Natural Herbs And Supplements A Safe Way To Treat Hep C Symptoms
Although herbs and other supplements may seem appealing, a number of them actually cause more harm to your liver, leading to even more severe liver damage and possibly death. It is because of this that HCV positive people are advised to talk to a health care provider before experimenting with any types of herbs.
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Should I Be Screened For Hepatitis C
Doctors usually recommend one-time screening of all adults ages 18 to 79 for hepatitis C. Screening is testing for a disease in people who have no symptoms. Doctors use blood tests to screen for hepatitis C. Many people who have hepatitis C dont have symptoms and dont know they have hepatitis C. Screening tests can help doctors diagnose and treat hepatitis C before it causes serious health problems.
Hepatitis B In The United States
In the United States, about 862,000 people have chronic hepatitis B.6 Asian Americans and African Americans have higher rates of chronic hepatitis B than other U.S. racial and ethnic groups.10 Researchers estimate that about half of the people living with chronic hepatitis B in the United States are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.11 Chronic hepatitis B is also more common among people born in other countries than among those born in the United States.7
The hepatitis B vaccine has been available since the 1980s and, in 1991, doctors began recommending that children in the United States receive the hepatitis B vaccine. The annual rate of acute hepatitis B infections went down 88.5 percent between 1982 and 2015.12 In 2017, the annual number of hepatitis B infections rose in some states.13 Experts think the rise was related to increases in injection drug use. Injection drug use increases the risk of hepatitis B infection.
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Articles On Hepatitis C
If you’ve just been diagnosed with hepatitis C, you may wonder how you got it and worry about passing on the virus to a loved one. If you’ve had the disease for a long time without knowing it, you could dwell on every little incident in the past where you might have accidentally exposed a family member to the disease.
It’s important to remember that hepatitis C isn’t easy to catch. If you take a few precautions, it’s almost impossible to pass on the disease to someone else.
Are There Supplements That Are Bad For My Liver
Taking too many vitamin and mineral supplements may do more harm than good to a damaged liver.
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How Do Doctors Treat The Complications Of Hepatitis C
If hepatitis C leads to cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Doctors can treat the health problems related to cirrhosis with medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If you have cirrhosis, you have an increased chance of liver cancer. Your doctor may order an ultrasound test to check for liver cancer.
If hepatitis C leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
Actually You Cant Give Yourself Hep C
Programs Director, Harm Reduction Action Center
In the midst of an opioid epidemic, and with rates of injection drug use on the rise in the United States, its time we start seriously discussing hepatitis C starting with one of the most common rumors passed around: you cannot give yourself hepatitis C. Thats right folks, hepatitis C is a virus! That means it doesnt come from contact with your own old or dried blood, it can only be given to you through blood to blood contact with someone else with the virus present in their blood. This is why syringe access programs are such important public health interventions, to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C by providing sterile injection materials such as syringes, and other materials necessary to convert street drugs into an injectable, bloodlike solution.
While many people are aware that sharing used syringes puts you at risk of contracting bloodborne illnesses, its important that we also discuss that sharing injecting materials such as water, cookers, tourniquets, cottons and other works can also put you at risk. Anything that may be coming into contact with your blood and is being shared increases your risk factors. And dont forget this also applies to splitting drugs wet. If youre using a syringe to divide doses, make sure the syringe is sterile!
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Can You Get Hepatitis C From Touching Dried Blood
It may be possible to contract hepatitis C by coming into contact with dried blood. Researchers in a 2014 study looked into how long hepatitis C can live at room temperature and found that the virus can remain infective for up to 6 weeks.
Objects that have come into contact with blood must be discarded or cleaned with antiseptics and its essential to use antiseptic products at the right concentration to ensure they are effective. Diluted antiseptics will not clean used objects properly.
The safest approach is to avoid using any product that may have come into contact with someone elses blood.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
Most people infected with hepatitis C have no symptoms. Some people with an acute hepatitis C infection may have symptoms within 1 to 3 months after they are exposed to the virus. These symptoms may include
- yellowish eyes and skin, called jaundice
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you most likely will have no symptoms until complications develop, which could be decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
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What Foods Should I Avoid
Everyone should avoid eating a lot of fat, cholesterol, salt and processed sugar, even if their liver is healthy. In addition, those with HCV should limit or avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol will speed up liver damage.
Eating properly can help decrease some of the symptoms of Hepatitis C, like feeling tired and sick. Drink lots of water for general health benefits. HCV is not a digestive disease diet will not affect the disease. Your provider may put you on a special diet if you have advanced liver disease.
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If You Have Hepatitis C Should You Get A Flu Shot
Yes. Having chronic hepatitis C is actually a good reason to get the flu shot. Chronic hepatitis C is a condition that can increase your risk of complications if you do get influenza. Thats why it is recommended for people with hepatitis C, and most chronic liver diseases, to be vaccinated against the flu.
To stay up to date with your influenza vaccinations, you need to be vaccinated every yearideally, early in the flu season or as soon as the vaccine becomes available. Typically, flu season is considered to be October to March. Its best to get vaccinated annually because the vaccine is designed differently each year to target the strains of influenza that are expected to circulate during that particular flu season.
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If You Notice Symptoms See A Doctor Right Away
Symptoms of hepatitis C include the following:
- Jaundice a yellowish tone to the eyes and skin
- Mild, chronic right belly pain
- Loss of appetite
If you believe you have been exposed to hepatitis C or notice any symptoms, visit your primary care doctor as soon as possible. If you test positive for the virus, your doctor can refer you to a hepatologist to discuss your options.
“I strongly encourage all baby boomers and others who are at high risk to get tested, even if you don’t look or feel sick,” Reau says. “If you do have hepatitis C, the earlier we discover it, the more likely we can prevent it from progressing and causing more serious damage.”
What Can I Do To Stay Healthy
There are many things you can do to help you and your liver stay healthy:
- If you cant quit using tobacco, drugs or alcohol, try to reduce the amount you use they are very hard on your liver.
- Get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B so your Hep C doesn’t get worse.
- Reduce your stress level. Take a break when you need one.
- Get light or moderate exercise to keep fit and give you energy.
- Maintain regular sleeping hours and get enough rest.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables low in fat and sodium.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
- Maintain friendships and social contacts.
- Visit your healthcare provider for regular check-ups.
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