How Can You Prevent The Spread Of Hepatitis C
Now that you know how you get hepatitis C, you can take steps to protect yourself from the virus. For instance:
- Avoid sharing needles or other paraphernalia related to intravenous drugs.
- Wear gloves if youre a health care worker or otherwise exposed to needles or potentially infected blood.
- Use barrier methodsaka condomsoutside of sexually monogamous relationships.
- Dont share toothbrushes or other dental equipment, nail clippers, or shaving tools.
- If youre getting a tattoo or piercing, make sure the artist or piercer uses sterile ink and needles.
If you have the hepatitis C virus, you can prevent passing it along to others by following those same steps, in addition to:
- Covering any open sores or wounds.
- Telling all your health and dental care providers you have the virus.
- Avoiding donating blood.
Will It Affect My Partner/s
If you have hepatitis A: Your partner/s should be immunised for prevention. You should avoid anal sex until you are better.
If you have hepatitis B: Free immunisation is available for household and sexual contacts of people known to carry hepatitis B. If your partner is not immunised, you should always use a condom. Protection is offered to babies on the immunisation schedule and to children under 16 years.
If you have hepatitis C: Anyone youve had sex with, or shared a needle with can have a blood test to check for hepatitis C antibodies.
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What Is Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is spread between people by body fluids. It is a serious disease that causes your liver to become inflamed. Most people recover completely. Some people have long-lasting effects, which can lead to liver disease , liver cancer and death. People who are infected with hepatitis B when they are children are more likely to have serious liver disease later in life.
After acute infection with hepatitis B virus, some people become chronically infected. People with chronic hepatitis can transmit the disease, including from mother to child.
Hepatitis A, B and C are all different diseases, so they have different symptoms and different treatments. The hepatitis B vaccine does not protect you from hepatitis A or hepatitis C.
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Hepatitis A And B Vaccines
There are vaccines to protect against hepatitis A and B. The CDC recommends hepatitis A vaccination for all children ages 12 to 23 months and for adults who plan to travel or work in areas with hepatitis A outbreaks or who have other risk factors. People with chronic hepatitis B or C should also get the hepatitis A vaccine if they don’t already have immunity to the disease. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants at birth and for adults who have any of the risk factors we discussed earlier. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Whos At Risk For Hepatitis C
You might be more likely to get it if you:
- Inject or have injected street drugs
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Got clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- Received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplants before July 1992
- Got blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for hepatitis C
- Are on dialysis
- Get a body piercing or tattoo with nonsterile instruments
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Who Should Be Tested For Hepatitis
Testing is important for anyone with the risk factors we’ve mentioned, particularly injected drug users and people who have had multiple sex partners. Health advocates are also urging people of Asian heritage to get tested. Stanford University’s Asian Liver Center estimates that 1 in 10 Asians living in the U.S. has chronic hepatitis B. Many of them have probably had the virus since birth.
Also, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that health care providers offer a one-time hepatitis C screening for anyone born between 1945 and 1965.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
If you develop any of the symptoms of chronic hepatitis, liver damage, or liver cancer, see your healthcare provider. It takes only a blood test to detect the presence of a hepatitis virus in your body .
A blood test also can determine which hepatitis virus you’re infected with, which will determine what your treatment should be .
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Who Is At Risk For Infection
Anyone who is not immune to hepatitis A can get hepatitis A infection. Food-borne outbreaks occur sporadically throughout the USA. Certain groups of people do have a higher risk of developing HAV infection and should be vaccinated:
- Persons experiencing homelessness
- People who eat raw or under-cooked shellfish
When To Get Medical Advice
See your GP for advice if:
- you have symptoms of hepatitis A a blood test can usually confirm whether you have the infection
- you might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus recently but you do not have any symptoms treatment given early on may be able to stop the infection developing
- you think you might need the hepatitis A vaccine your GP can advise you about whether you should have the vaccine
Although hepatitis A is not usually serious, it’s important to see your GP so they can rule out more serious conditions with similar symptoms, such as hepatitis C or scarring of ther liver .
It may also be necessary to test your friends, family and any sexual partners in case you have spread the infection to them.
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Can You Have Hep C And Not Know It
We said this illness is sneaky, and in fact, most people with hepatitis C dont have any symptoms at the time they are diagnosed, says Dr. Goff. That makes it difficult to trace exactly where and when someone contracted the virus. Unfortunately, it also gives the virus time to wreak havoc on the liver before you feel sick enough to seek treatment.
Until we started actively screening the population, patients could be infected with hepatitis C and have absolutely no idea they had it, Dr. Fox says. Weve had to change our screening recommendations over time so that were not only testing people who self-report a history of a risk factor.
Currently, the CDC recommends all adults get screened for hepatitis C at least once in their lifetime, and pregnant women should be screened during each pregnancy. For people with ongoing risk factorsfor example, for people who regularly inject drugs or share needlesmore frequent testing is recommended.
How Long Before I Have Symptoms
Many people have mild symptoms or no symptoms, which is why hepatitis is sometimes called a âsilentâ disease.
Hepatitis A. The symptoms usually show up 2 to 6 weeks after the virus enters your body. They usually last for less than 2 months, though sometimes you can be sick for as long as 6 months.
Some warning signs that you may have hepatitis A are:
Hepatitis B. The symptoms are the same as hepatitis A, and you usually get them 3 months after you’re infected. They could show up, though, anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months later.
Sometimes the symptoms are mild and last just a few weeks. For some people, the hep B virus stays in the body and leads to long-term liver problems.
Hepatitis C. The early symptoms are the same as hepatitis A and B, and they usually happen 6 to 7 weeks after the virus gets in your body. But you could notice them anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months later.
For about 25% of people who get hep C, the virus goes away on its own without treatment. In other cases, it sticks around for years. When that happens, your liver might get damaged.
Remember, it’s possible to spread all the types of hepatitis even if you don’t show any signs of being sick.
How Do You Treat Hepatitis C
People with acute infection do not always need treatment, because their immune system may clear hepatitis C on its own. If you test positive during the acute stage, your doctor may ask you to come back after a few months to re-test and to see if you need any treatment.
If people develop chronic infection, they will need treatment to help clear the virus. Where available, treatment with drugs called direct-acting antivirals can cure hepatitis in most cases. These are usually taken for 8-12 weeks. Your doctor will also check your liver for any damage.
If youve had hepatitis C in the past, youre not immune to future infections which means you can get it again. You can also still get other types of hepatitis, and having hepatitis C together with another type is more serious.
If youve already had hepatitis C, its advisable to have the vaccination against hepatitis A and B to protect your liver from further damage.
Whether you have symptoms or not, dont have sex until your healthcare professional says you can.
Immunisation For Hepatitis B
Immunisation is the best protection against hepatitis B infection. A course of vaccination is recommended for all babies and people in high-risk groups.
Immunisation can be with a vaccine against hepatitis B alone or with a combination vaccine. To be immunised, contact your doctor or local council.
Protection against hepatitis B is available free of charge under the National Immunisation Program Schedule. In Victoria, immunisation against hepatitis B is free for:
- Babies at birth immunisation against hepatitis B alone as soon as possible after birth.
- Babies at 2, 4 and 6 months combination immunisation in the form of a diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine .
- Premature babies at 12 months premature babies born under 32 weeks gestation or under 2,000g birth weight receive a single booster dose.
- Children up to and including 9 years of age.
- People aged less than 20 years having a catch-up immunisation.
- Refugees and humanitarian entrants aged 20 years and above.
In Victoria, free hepatitis B vaccine is provided for people who are at increased risk of infection, including:
Immunisation is also recommended, but not necessarily free, for people who are at increased risk of infection, including:
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What Does The Government Do To Protect Me
In Canada, several government organizations work together every day to keep your food safe:
- Health Canada makes food safety standards and policies to help minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforces these policies and standards and carries out inspections to make sure the food industry meets its food safety responsibilities. The CFIA works with Health Canada to make sure that foodborne illness is detected early and warnings go out to the public quickly.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada studies the incidence and causes of diseases in Canada, conducts outbreak surveillance, and coordinates outbreak response.
The Government of Canada works very hard to protect your health and safety:
- We are carrying out a five-year Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan, to strengthen and modernize Canada’s safety system and make sure you can have confidence in the quality and safety of the food, health and consumer products you buy.
- We are investing $75 million more in Canada’s food safety system to hire more inspectors, update lab technology, and improve communication with Canadians.
- We support and participate in public awareness campaigns about safe food practices, like the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education’s Be Food Safe program, which encourages Canadian consumers to think of food safety at every step of the food handling process, from shopping for groceries to re-heating leftovers.
Common Symptoms Of Hepatitis
If you are living with a chronic form of hepatitis, like hepatitis B and C, you may not show symptoms until the damage affects liver function. By contrast, people with acute hepatitis may present with symptoms shortly after contracting a hepatitis virus.
Common symptoms of infectious hepatitis include:
It is crucial to understand what is causing hepatitis in order to treat it correctly. Doctors will progress through a series of tests to accurately diagnose your condition.
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How Easy Is It To Transmit Hep C
Heres the good news: Its not easy to transmit hepatitis C without blood exposure, so you really dont have to worry about hugging or sitting close or anything like that, Dr. Fox says. Hepatitis C is in body fluids other than blood, but its harder to pass it without blood exchange.
That said, if you or someone close to you has hepatitis C, certain precautions can keep you extra-safe. For example, if your partner has hep C, its pretty hard to get it while doing normal activities, but you might consider not sharing things that could potentially have blood on it, like nail clippers and toothbrushes, says John Goff, M.D., a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and member of the American Liver Foundations National Medical Advisory Committee.
Other ways you cant get hep C? Breastfeeding, kissing, coughing, sneezing, eating or drinking, according to the CDC. Whew!
Why Getting Tested Is Important
A blood test is one of the only ways to confirm a diagnosis of hepatitis C. Additionally, hepatitis C often has no visible symptoms for many years.
Because of this, its important to be tested if you believe youve been exposed to the virus. Getting a timely diagnosis can help ensure you receive treatment before permanent liver damage occurs.
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How To Prevent Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by a virus . It can be serious and theres no cure, but the good news is its easy to prevent. You can protect yourself by getting the hepatitis B vaccine and having safer sex. If you have oral, anal, and vaginal sex, use condoms and dental dams to help stop the spread of hepatitis B and other STDs.
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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Causes Of Noninfectious Hepatitis
Although hepatitis is most commonly the result of an infection, other factors can cause the condition.
Alcohol and other toxins
The alcohol directly injures the cells of your liver. Over time, it can cause permanent damage and lead to thickening or scarring of liver tissue and liver failure.
Other toxic causes of hepatitis include misuse of medications and exposure to toxins.
Autoimmune system response
In some cases, the immune system mistakes the liver as harmful and attacks it. This causes ongoing inflammation that can range from mild to severe, often hindering liver function. Itâs three times more common in women than in men.
What Can I Do If I Think I Have Hepatitis B
Cases are generally diagnosed by GPs, not sexual health clinics. If you had sex with someone recently or you share your house with others, they can be vaccinated to stop them getting the infection they should see a doctor straight away.
Avoid sex until you are told youre no longer infectious or until your partners have been vaccinated.
A blood test will confirm whether you have the virus.
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How Do People Get Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of people with HAV infection. It enters the body through the mouth after someone handles something contaminated with HAV, or eats or drinks something contaminated with HAV.
People usually get hepatitis A by having close contact with a person who is infected, from food or drinks prepared by someone who is infected, or by eating shellfish harvested from sewage-contaminated water. After the virus enters the body, there is an incubation period lasting 2 to 7 weeks until illness begins.
How Do I Know If I Have Hepatitis C Virus
Diagnosis of hepatitis C virus requires a blood test your doctor can order. Other blood tests can determine which subtype of HCV you have to better target your drug treatment, if needed. Your doctor will also want to know your viral load . In some patients, a liver biopsy is required to determine the level of damage.
Symptoms of chronic HCV may not appear for 2 to 3 decades after infection, so the disease may develop silently in your body for many years. This is the reason you should be tested for HCV infection, to start treatment if needed and to help protect your liver from damage.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone 18 years or older be tested for hepatitis C virus at least once in their lifetime. Women should be tested for hepatitis C testing during each pregnancy. Some high risk groups may need more frequent testing, such as people who share drug preparation equipment and those on hemodialysis.
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