Causes Of Hepatitis C
You can become infected with hepatitis C if you come into contact with the blood of an infected person.
Other bodily fluids can also contain the virus, but blood contains the highest level of it. Just a small trace of blood can cause an infection. At room temperature, it’s thought the virus may be able survive outside the body in patches of dried blood on surfaces for up to several weeks.
The main ways you can become infected with the hepatitis C virus are described below.
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.
Can I Catch Hep C From Getting A Tattoo
Its possible to get hepatitis C through tattooing and body piercings if the facility is unlicensed and equipment isnt properly sterilized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Its not all that different than the way you can get hep C from sharing unsanitized personal items like glucose monitors, razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes, which all have the potential of coming in contact with a persons blood. In licensed tattooing facilities though, theres no documented risk of getting hep C.
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Cost Of Hepatitis C Medicines
The newer direct-acting antiviral medicines for hepatitis C can be costly. Most government and private health insurance prescription drug plans provide some coverage for these medicines. Talk with your doctor about your health insurance coverage for hepatitis C medicines.
Drug companies, nonprofit organizations, and some states offer programs that can help pay for hepatitis C medicines. If you need help paying for medicines, talk with your doctor. Learn more about financial help for hepatitis C medicines.
Should I Have Other Specialists On My Treatment Team
If you have an addiction for example, to alcohol, cigarettes, or illicit drugs you may benefit from working with an addiction specialist who can help you kick the habit. A hepatologist can treat the virus itself, a mental health professional can help you cope with anxiety or depression, and a registered dietitian can help you create a customized, healthy diet.
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Hiv And Hepatitis B And Hepatitis C Coinfection
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are liver infections caused by a virus. Because these infections can be spread in the same ways as HIV, people with HIV in the United States are often also affected by chronic viral hepatitis.
Viral hepatitis progresses faster and causes more liver-related health problems among people with HIV than among those who do not have HIV. Liver disease, much of which is related to HBV or HCV, is a major cause of non-AIDS-related deaths among people with HIV.
Given the risks of hepatitis B or hepatitis C coinfection to the health of people living with HIV, it is important to understand these risks, take steps to prevent infection, know your status, and, if necessary, get medical care from someone who is experienced in treating people who are coinfected with HIV and HBV, or HIV and HCV.
Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. But 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 person’s 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
- Using a latex condom during sex. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
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How Can I Prevent Spreading Hepatitis C To Others
If you have hepatitis C, follow the steps above to avoid spreading the infection. Tell your sex partner you have hepatitis C, and talk with your doctor about safe sex practices. In addition, you can protect others from infection by telling your doctor, dentist, and other health care providers that you have hepatitis C. Dont donate blood or blood products, semen, organs, or tissue.
How Is Hepatitis C Transmitted
The way the virus does spread is through contact with the blood of someone who is infected. Most commonly, this occurs through one of the following methods.
Intravenous drug usePeople who share needles or other supplies while injecting drugs like cocaine and heroin have a high risk for contracting hepatitis C. Even if you only used these types of drugs once years ago, there is still a chance you are infected.
Needlestick injuriesHealth care or other safety workers may come into contact with an infected persons blood if theyre accidentally stuck with a contaminated needle or other sharp object. Parents often worry about their children developing hepatitis C after finding a needle on the ground or at the beach. While thats possible, its unlikely, Dr. Nachman saysthe most commonly discarded needles are insulin needles, which typically dont contain enough blood to transmit hepatitis C. Plus, the virus can only survive about a day outside of the body.
Medical proceduresNow, donated blood and organs are screened for the hepatitis C virus. However, before 1992, that wasnt the case, so people who received blood transfusions or an organ transplant before that time might have become infected.
Tattoos and piercingsThese days, licensed and regulated tattoo parlors dont pose much of a danger. However, piercings or tattoos received in unregulated settings, such as prisons, may spread hepatitis C, Dr. Kodali says.
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Is Hepatitis Testing Recommended For People With Hiv
Yes. Everyone living with HIV should be tested for HBV and HCV when they are first diagnosed with HIV and begin treatment. People living with HIV who have ongoing risk factors for getting hepatitis B or hepatitis C should be tested annually.
In addition, new HCV screening recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for:
- One-time screening for all adults 18 years and older
- Screening of all pregnant women during every pregnancy
- Testing for all persons with risk factors, with testing continued periodic testing those with ongoing risk.
How Is It Treated
Experts recommend that nearly everyone who has hepatitis C receive treatment. Talk with your doctor about whether you should get treatment. Current treatments for hepatitis C almost always work.
Taking care of yourself is an important part of the treatment for hepatitis C. Some people with hepatitis C don’t notice a change in the way they feel. Others feel tired, sick, or depressed. You may feel better if you exercise and eat healthy foods. To help prevent further liver damage, avoid alcohol and illegal drugs and certain medicines that can be hard on your liver.
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Treatment Of Relapse Or Non
Sometimes you may need to take a different combination of medicines if your first round of treatment didn’t work very well. If it was not done before, your doctor may do a test to find out which genotype caused the infection. This may help the doctor choose a medicine that is more likely to cure the infection.
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
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Who Is At Risk For Hepatitis C
HCV is more common in adults than in kids. Rates of HCV infection in the United States almost tripled from 2010 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Most of these new infections are in young adults who inject drugs. Many of them went from abusing prescription drugs to injecting heroin, which often is cheaper and easier to get. Health experts worry that more newborns will be at risk for HCV because so many young women are part of this group.
What Causes Hepatitis C Infection
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is spread by contact with an infected person’s blood.
You can get hepatitis C if:
- You share needles and other equipment used to inject illegal drugs.
- You had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. Since the early 1990s, all donated blood and organs are screened for hepatitis C in Canada.
- You get a shot with a needle that has infected blood on it. This happens in some developing countries where they use needles more than once when giving shots.
- You get a tattoo or a piercing with a needle that has infected blood on it. This can happen if equipment isn’t cleaned properly after it is used.
In rare cases, a mother with hepatitis C may spread the virus to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth, or a health care worker may be accidentally exposed to blood that is infected with hepatitis C.
The risk of getting hepatitis C through sexual contact is very small.footnote 1 The risk is higher if you have many sex partners or you engage in unprotected sexual activity that may involve contact with blood or an exchange of blood with an infected person . The presence of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections also increases the chances of getting hepatitis C sexually.
You cannot get hepatitis C from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drink.
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Eat Regular Nutritious Meals
Sometimes people with hepatitis C have a hard time eating. You may have no appetite, feel nauseated, or have different tastes than you are used to. Even if you don’t feel like eating, it’s very important to eat small meals throughout the day. Some people have nausea in the afternoon. If this happens to you, try to eat a big, nutritious meal in the morning.
If you have cirrhosis, it may not be a good idea to eat salty foods or foods that are high in protein. If you want to know more about which foods to avoid and which foods are good to eat, ask your doctor about meeting with a registered dietitian to discuss a healthy eating plan.
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How Can I Cover Medication Costs
New therapies called direct-acting antivirals are effective and can achieve cures of over 90%. Because these new therapies are very new, they remain very expensive. As such, drug coverage from both government and private companies may require that your liver disease has progressed to a certain stage before they are willing to cover the cost of these drugs.
Talk with your healthcare provider about financial support that may be available.
Below are useful resources when looking for financial assistance:Private health insurance or drug plansIf you have private health insurance or a drug plan at work, you may be able to have the medication paid through your plan. Please consult your private health insurance or drug plan provider to see if your drug is covered.
Publicly funded plansEach provincial and territorial government offers a drug benefit plan for eligible groups. Some are income-based universal programs. Most have specific programs for population groups that may require more enhanced coverage for high drug costs. These groups include seniors, recipients of social assistance, and individuals with diseases or conditions that are associated with high drug costs. For more details, please contact your provincial or territorial health care ministry, or click on the appropriate link below.
Available Patient Assistance Programs for Hepatitis C treatment Holkira Pak Maviret
MerckCare Hepatitis C Program 1 872-5773 Zepatier
How Is Hepatitis C Diagnosed And Who Should Be Tested
- All adults over the age of 18 years, at least once in their lifetime
- People who are pregnant, once with each pregnancy
- Children born to a person with hepatitis C infection
- Anyone with HIV or on hemodialysis, with repeat testing as indicated
- Anyone with an accidental needlestick or potential exposure to hepatitis C virus
- Anyone who requests testing
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Getting Tested Is The Only Way To Know If You Have Hepatitis C
A blood test called a hepatitis C antibody test can tell if you have been infected with the hepatitis C viruseither recently or in the past. If you have a positive antibody test, another blood test is needed to tell if you are still infected or if you were infected in the past and cleared the virus on your own.
- Are 18 years of age and older
- Are pregnant
- Currently inject drugs
- Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago
- Have HIV
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Are on hemodialysis
Hepatitis C Virus Strains
There are different strains of the hepatitis C virus. These are called genotypes. In New Zealand, it is estimated that of those infected with hepatitis C virus:
- 55% have genotype 1
- 35% have genotype 3
- 8% have genotype 2
- 1% have genotype 4 or 6.
It used to be important to know the genotype as it used to determine which treatment option was best. We now have a funded treatment called Maviret that treats all genotypes .
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Risk Factor: Working In Certain Health Care Settings
People who work in health care, public safety, or emergency medical care may also be at increased risk of contracting hepatitis C. Why? Because there is a higher chance that youll be exposed to infected blood, says the CDC. For example, Dr. Fox says, People have gotten hepatitis C through accidental needle sticks in hospitals. If you do work in a health care setting, make sure to follow safety guidelines and take steps to protect yourself, including wearing gloves when necessary and washing hands properly.
Tests For Liver Problems
To check how well your liver is working, you may have:
- Liver function tests. These are blood tests that can help your doctor find out if you have liver damage.
- A liver biopsy. The doctor puts a needle in the liver to find out whether the virus has caused scarring or damage to your liver.
- Imaging tests such as a CT scan, an MRI, or an ultrasound to make sure that you don’t have liver cancer.
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Hepatitis C Symptoms & Treatment
Hepatitis C is found in infected blood. It is also rarely found in semen and vaginal fluids.
Hepatitis C is mainly passed on through using contaminated needles and syringes or sharing other items with infected blood on them. It can also be passed on through unprotected sex, especially when blood is present.
You can prevent hepatitis C by never sharing needles and syringes, practising safer sex, and avoiding unlicensed tattoo parlours and acupuncturists.
Hepatitis C will often not have any noticeable symptoms, but a simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have hepatitis C.
In the early stages, some peoples bodies can clear a hepatitis C infection on their own, others may develop chronic hepatitis C and will need to take antiviral treatment to cure the infection.
Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can lead to permanent liver damage.
Hepatitis C is part of a group of hepatitis viruses that attack the liver.
Its mainly passed on through contaminated needles, either from injecting drugs or from needle stick injuries in healthcare settings. It can also be transmitted sexually, especially during anal sex or other types of sex that may involve blood.
Some groups are more at risk of getting hepatitis C than others, including people who use drugs, people in prisons, men who have sex with men, health workers and people living with HIV.