How Does Hepatitis C Spread
The hepatitis C virus spreads when any blood that is contaminated with the virus enters the bloodstream of an uninfected individual. This most commonly occurs when people share contaminated needles or syringes used for injecting drugs. However, hepatitis C can also spread via:
- Tattoo or piercing needles that have not been properly clean and sterilized
- Blood transfusions and organ transplants performed before 1992
- Medical procedures where healthcare professionals have not performed proper sterilization steps
A mother with hepatitis C can also potentially pass the infection to her baby during birth. This occurs in about 6% of the infants born to a mother with hepatitis C.
Essentially, you can get hepatitis C from sharing any personal item that came into contact with infected blood. If that infected blood then enters your own bloodstream, the infection can spread. This means that people can potentially get infected from sharing glucose monitors, nail clippers, razors, or even toothbrushesâthough these are rare routes of transmission.
Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms
If you donât get diagnosed and treated, you could have the disease for years and not know it. Doctors call this the chronic form, because it lasts a long time. Some people who’ve had it for a while get scarring of the liver, which is called cirrhosis. or liver cancer.
In addition to the above symptoms, signs that your liver isnât working the way it should include:
- Ascites — fluid buildup in your belly
- Easy bleeding
- Hepatic encephalopathy — confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech
- Jaundice of the skin
How Can The Spread Of Hepatitis C Be Prevented
People who have had hepatitis C should remain aware that their blood is potentially infectious.
- Do not shoot drugs if you shoot drugs, stop and get into a treatment program if you can’t stop, never share needles, syringes, water or “works”, and get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
- Do not share personal care items that might have blood on them .
- If you are a health care or public safety worker, always follow routine barrier precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
- Consider the risks if you are thinking about getting a tattoo or body piercing. You might get infected if the tools have someone else’s blood on them or if the artist or piercer does not follow good health practices.
- HCV can be spread by sex, but this is rare. If you are having sex with more than one steady sex partner, use latex condoms correctly and every time to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. You should also get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
- If you are infected with HCV, do not donate blood, organs or tissue.
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Complications Of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be a long-term, progressive disease. It can eventually lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver tissue. If this happens, the liver doesnt function as well. Some people with hepatitis C also develop liver cancer.
A liver transplant may be necessary if the virus has significantly damaged your liver. Even with a new liver, youll have to take antiviral medication to avoid infecting the new organ.
Screening For Hepatitis C
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults ages 18 to 79 years be screened for hepatitis C, even those without symptoms or known liver disease. Screening for HCV is especially important if you’re at high risk of exposure, including:
- Anyone who has ever injected or inhaled illicit drugs
- Anyone who has abnormal liver function test results with no identified cause
- Babies born to mothers with hepatitis C
- Health care and emergency workers who have been exposed to blood or accidental needle sticks
- People with hemophilia who were treated with clotting factors before 1987
- People who have undergone long-term hemodialysis treatments
- People who received blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992
- Sexual partners of anyone diagnosed with hepatitis C infection
- People with HIV infection
- Anyone born from 1945 to 1965
- Anyone who has been in prison
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Stages Of Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus affects people in different ways and has several stages:
- Incubation period. This is the time between first exposure to the start of the disease. It can last anywhere from 14 to 80 days, but the average is 45
- Acute hepatitis C. This is a short-term illness that lasts for the first 6 months after the virus enters your body. After that, some people who have it will get rid of, or clear, the virus on their own.
- Chronic hepatitis C. For most people who get hepatitis C — up to 85% — the illness moves into a long-lasting stage . This is called a chronic hepatitis C infection and can lead to serious health problems like liver cancer or cirrhosis.
- Cirrhosis. This disease leads to inflammation that, over time, replaces your healthy liver cells with scar tissue. It usually takes about 20 to 30 years for this to happen, though it can be faster if you drink alcohol or have HIV.
- Liver cancer. Cirrhosis makes liver cancer more likely. Your doctor will make sure you get regular tests because there are usually no symptoms in the early stages.
Learn more about the stages and progression of hepatitis C.
How Is The Virus Spread
Like hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus is spread when blood of an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected, such as through sharing needles or “works” when shooting drugs or occupational needle stick injury. The risk of sexual transmission has not been thoroughly studied but appears to be low in long-term, monogamous relationships. There is no evidence that the hepatitis C virus can be transmitted by casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands, through foods, by sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, or by coughing or sneezing. Hepatitis C is not spread by breastmilk.
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The Abcs Of Hepatitis: Mayo Clinic Expert Explains Types Prevention
ROCHESTER, Minn. It’s Hepatitis Awareness Month. Understanding the different forms of hepatitis, who is at risk and how it can be prevented and treated can be confusing. Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert Stacey Rizza, M.D., offers the following primer:
MULTIMEDIA ALERT: Video of Dr. Rizza is available on the Mayo Clinic News Network.
Hepatitis A A highly contagious viral condition that causes inflammation affecting the liver’s ability to function, hepatitis A is most likely contracted from contaminated food, water or someone already infected. Mild cases don’t require treatment, and most who have the infection recover completely with no permanent liver damage.Effective vaccines are available and recommended for children at age 1 for older children who didn’t get the vaccine at age 1 and for people traveling to areas with high rates of the illness, among others. Practicing good hand hygiene is one of the best ways to protect against hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B For some people, hepatitis B infection becomes chronic, leading to liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis a condition that causes permanent scarring of the liver. It is spread through bodily fluids. Most people infected as adults recover fully, even if their signs and symptoms are severe. Infants and children are much more likely to develop a chronic hepatitis B infection.
How Do You Get Tested For Hepatitis C
Chronic HCV infections are different.These infections remain in the body long-term, and if left untreated, can cause life-threatening complications, notes the NHS. For this reason, anyone at risk for hepatitis C should be screened for the infection and start treatment.
Risk factors include sharing needles, having a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992 , a history of HIV, being exposed to bloody needles on the job, having unprotected sex, and being born between 1945 and 1965.
The sooner hepatitis C is diagnosed and treatment begins, the lower the risk for serious complications. Chronic hepatitis C can lead to end-stage liver disease, which is characterized by cirrhosis, liver cancer, and the need for liver transplantation, says Adalja.
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Hepatitis C Testing And Diagnosis
Doctors will start by checking your blood for:
Anti-HCV antibodies: 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.
It usually takes a few days to a week to get results, though a rapid test is available in some places.
The results can be:
- Nonreactive, or negative:
- That may mean you donât have hep C.
- If youâve been exposed in the last 6 months, youâll need to be retested.
If your antibody test is positive, youâll get this test:
HCV RNA: It measures the number of viral RNA particles in your blood. They usually show up 1-2 weeks after youâre infected.
- The results can be:
- Negative: You donât have hep C.
- Positive: You currently have hep C.
You might also get:
Liver function tests: They measure proteins and enzyme levels, which usually rise 7 to 8 weeks after youâre infected. As your liver gets damaged, enzymes leak into your bloodstream. But you can have normal enzyme levels and still have hepatitis C. Learn the reasons why you should get tested for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C: Testing Could Save Your Life
If a simple blood test could improve your long-term health or possibly save your life, would you have it done? The answer for most people is a resounding Yes. Testing for hepatitis C, which entails a basic blood draw and analysis, can be the difference between serious health complications later in life or a manageable curable in most cases when treated condition.
Lets explore questions and answers to help you understand more about chronic hepatitis C.
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that targets the liver, leading to inflammation and scaring if untreated. Several hepatitis viruses exist, but hepatitis C is one of the most serious forms. Hepatitis A, B and C are different diseases.
Passed through contact with contaminated blood, hepatitis C often is contracted by sharing needles or snorting drugs. However, receiving a blood transfusion, clotting factor or organ transplant before 1992, getting piercings or tattoos in an unsterile environment, and having a history of incarceration, among other things, also are risks for contracting hepatitis C.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
Many people with hepatitis C dont know they have the infection. Symptoms typically dont appear until years later in the course of chronic infection.
Signs of chronic infection include:
- Bleeding easily
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
- Spider-like blood vessels on your skin
Who should be tested for hepatitis C?
Consider a hepatitis C test if you:
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Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented
There is no vaccine against hepatitis C. The only way to prevent infection is to avoid contact with infected blood.
Hepatitis C cannot be spread by coughing, sneezing or sharing eating utensils. People should not be kept away from school, work, or other social settings because they have hepatitis C.
Here are some precautions that may prevent the spread of hepatitis C:
- Do not share personal care items, such as toothbrushes or razors, with others.
- Practice safe sex by using condoms.
- Dont share needles or syringes.
- Wear gloves when handling another persons blood.
- Use sterile equipment for body piercings or tattoos.
- If you are a healthcare worker, follow recommended safety measures.
People who are at greater risk for contracting hepatitis C should have their blood tested. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that Americans born between 1945 and 1965 be screened at least once for the disease.
What Is Liver Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a state in which the liver architecture has been replaced by fibrous tissue due to cycles of inflammation, explains Adalja. Hepatitis C infection can incite these inflammatory states in the liver as it infects liver cells and inflicts damage, which the immune system responds to, he adds.
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How Is Hepatitis C Treated
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The aim of treatment for hepatitis C is to eradicate the virus from the blood completely, and to protect the liver from developing cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Several medications are available to treat hepatitis C. The hepatitis C virus has six different types or strains . The type and length of treatment may vary. Some hepatitis strains do not respond to antiviral medications as well as others. Some medications may not be suitable for all patients with hepatitis C, because of the side effects or the patients other medical conditions.
These are the medications approved for treatment of hepatitis C infection:
- Sofosbuvir : Tablet taken once a day. Used in combination with other antiviral drugs.
- Ledipasvir/sofosbuvir : Pill taken once a day for 12 to 24 weeks, depending on how serious the disease is.
- Simeprevir : Capsule taken once a day with other medications called peginterferon alfa and ribavirin
- Combination of paritaprevir/ombitasvir/ritonavir/dasabuvir
- Daclatasvir : Used in combination with other drugs
- Elbasvir/grazoprevir : Tablet taken once a day
- Sofosbuvir/velpatasvir : Tablet taken once a day
- Glecaprevir/pibrentasvir : Three pills a day in one dose
- Sofosbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir : Tablet taken once a day
- Ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir : Two tablets once a day in the morning, in combination with ribavirin
What Are The Symptoms And Consequences Of Infection
Approximately 20 percent of persons exposed to the virus develop symptoms which may include jaundice , fatigue, dark-colored urine, stomach pain, loss of appetite and nausea. After the initial infection, 15-25 percent will recover and 75-85 percent will become chronically infected . Approximately 70 percent of persons chronically infected may develop liver disease, sometimes decades after initial infection.
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Can Hepatitis C Spread Through Sex
In some cases, hepatitis C can be transmitted via sexual contactâthough this isnât the most common mode of transmission. As hepatitis C infection involves blood-to-blood contact, this is only possible during intercourse that has an increased potential for exposure to blood. Thus, any sexual activity that increases exposure to blood will naturally increase the risk of HCV transmission.
This most often includes having unprotected intercourse during menstruation and having unprotected anal sex, which is more likely to cause bleeding and microtears. Note that sharing drug injection equipment with your sexual partner presents a much higher risk of transmission than just having unprotected sex.
Transmission rates are higher among partners who have tested positive for HIV. This is because HIV increases the viral load of hepatitis C, which means a greater amount of the virus is present in the infected person.
Other sexual behaviors that can increase your risk of HCV transmission include:
- Sharing sex toys used anally
- Having multiple sex partners
- Rough vaginal sex that could contribute to tearing and bleeding in the penis or vagina
Fingering and oral sex generally carry low risks for transmissionâbut itâs still important to be careful, especially if you or your partner have any open sores.
What Is The Prognosis For Someone Who Has Hepatitis C
You can continue to lead an active life even if you are diagnosed with hepatitis C. People with the disease can work and continue their regular daily activities. However, it is very important that you see a specialist as soon as you are diagnosed with hepatitis C. There are many treatments available that can cure the virus.
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, patients should:
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What Is Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a liver infection that can lead to serious liver damage. Itâs caused by the hepatitis C virus. About 2.4 million people in the U.S. have the disease. But it causes few symptoms, so most of them don’t know. The virus spreads through an infected personâs blood or body fluids.
There are many forms of the hepatitis C virus, or HCV. The most common in the U.S. is type 1. None is more serious than any other, but they respond differently to treatment.
What The Cdc Recommends
Were you born between 1945 and 1965? If so, then youre a member of the Hepatitis C generation. The CDC recently recommended that all people born between during this time have a 1-time screening test for Hepatitis C. We now have new drugs that can treat and cure Hepatitis C so you should go get tested today.
The life you save may be your own! Please contact your local healthcare provider.
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What Are The Types Of Hepatitis C Infection
There are two types of hepatitis C infection:
- Acute: a short-term infection that occurs within 6 months after a person is exposed to the virus. However, about 75 to 85 percent of people with the acute form go on to develop the chronic form.
- Chronic: a long-term illness that can continue throughout a persons life. It can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and other serious problems, such as liver failure or cancer. About 15,000 people a year die from liver disease associated with hepatitis C.
How Do You Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C spreads when blood or body fluids contaminated with the hepatitis C virus get into your bloodstream through contact with an infected person.
You can be exposed to the virus from:
- Sharing injection drugs and needles
- Having sex, especially if you have HIV, another STD, several partners, or have rough sex
- Being stuck by infected needles
- Birth — a mother can pass it to a child
- Sharing personal care items like toothbrushes, razor blades, and nail clippers
- Getting a tattoo or piercing with unclean equipment
You canât catch hepatitis C through:
- Casual contact
- Have been on long-term kidney dialysis
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Have HIV
- Were born to a mother with hepatitis C
Since July 1992, all blood and organ donations in the U.S. are tested for the hepatitis C virus. The CDC says it is now rare that someone getting blood products or an organ would get hepatitis C. That said, The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 18 get tested for Hepatitis C. If you haven’t been screened, you should consider having it done.
Learn more about the risk factors for hepatitis C.
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