Can You Be A Blood Or Organ Donor
People with hepatitis C cant currently donate blood. The American Red Cross eligibility guidelines prohibit people who have ever tested positive for hepatitis C from donating blood, even if the infection never caused symptoms.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services , information on organ donation, those with underlying medical conditions shouldnt rule themselves out as organ donors. This reflects new guidelines for organ donation announced by the HHS.
People with HCV are now able to be organ donors. This is because advances in testing and medical technology can help the transplant team determine which organs or tissues can be safely used for transplantation.
What Is Hepatitis C Infection How Many People Are Infected
Hepatitis C virus infection is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus . It is difficult for the human immune system to eliminate hepatitis C from the body, and infection with hepatitis C usually becomes chronic. Over decades, chronic infection with hepatitis C damages the liver and can cause liver failure. In the U.S., the CDC has estimated that approximately 41,200 new cases of hepatitis C occurred in 2016. When the virus first enters the body there usually are no symptoms, so this number is an estimate. About 75%-85% of newly infected people become chronically infected. In the U.S., more than 2 million people are estimated to be chronically infected with hepatitis C. Infection is most commonly detected among people who are 40 to 60 years of age, reflecting the high rates of infection in the 1970s and 1980s. There are 8,000 to 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S. related to hepatitis C infection. HCV infection is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the U.S. and is a risk factor for liver cancer. In 2016, 18,153 death certificates listed HCV as a contributing cause of death this is believed to be an underestimate.
Those who have cirrhosis from HCV also have a yearly risk of liver cancer of about 1%-5%.
Treatments For Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be treated with medicines that stop the virus multiplying inside the body. These usually need to be taken for several weeks.
Until recently, most people would have taken 2 main medicines called pegylated interferon and ribavirin .
Tablet-only treatments are now available.
These new hepatitis C medicines have been found to make treatment more effective, are easier to tolerate, and have shorter treatment courses.
They include sofosbuvir and daclatasvir.
Using the latest medications, more than 90% of people with hepatitis C may be cured.
But it’s important to be aware that you will not be immune to the infection and should take steps to reduce your risk of becoming infected again.
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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.
Can Hepatitis C Be Treated
Yes, since 2010 enormous progress has been made in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. New therapies called direct-acting antivirals are pills that act on the virus itself to eradicate it from the body, unlike older medicines like interferon injections which work by stimulating an immune response. These new treatments are very effective and can achieve cure rates of over 90%. In most situations now, there is no need for interferon, which was responsible for many of the side effects previously associated with HCV treatment. The new treatment combinations require shorter treatment durations , have reduced side effects and appear to be effective at all stages of the disease.
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.
Your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist to determine whether you are eligible for treatment. A specialist will help you decide which drug therapy is best for you based on the severity of your liver disease, your virus genotype and whether or not you have been treated in the past.
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How Do Doctors Treat Hepatitis C
Doctors treat hepatitis C with antiviral medicines that attack the virus and can cure the disease in most cases.
Several newer medicines, called direct-acting antiviral medicines, have been approved to treat hepatitis C since 2013. Studies show that these medicines can cure chronic hepatitis C in most people with this disease. These medicines can also cure acute hepatitis C. In some cases, doctors recommend waiting to see if an acute infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
Your doctor may prescribe one or more of these newer, direct-acting antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C:
You may need to take medicines for 8 to 24 weeks to cure hepatitis C. Your doctor will prescribe medicines and recommend a length of treatment based on
- which hepatitis C genotype you have
- how much liver damage you have
- whether you have been treated for hepatitis C in the past
Your doctor may order blood tests during and after your treatment. Blood tests can show whether the treatment is working. Hepatitis C medicines cure the infection in most people who complete treatment.
Hepatitis C medicines may cause side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of treatment. Check with your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
Sex And Dirty Needles
Hepatitis A can also be passed on through sex without a condom or dental dam with someone who has the virus, even if they dont have symptomsIn particular, via anal sex, fingering, rimming, fisting, or exploring the area around the anus with your fingers, mouth or tongue. Touching used condoms, sex toys and douching equipment that have been in someone elses anus can also pass the virus on.
You can protect yourself by:
- Knowing the status of your sexual partners.
- Using a new male or female condom or dental dam every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex.
- Using a new dental dam or latex gloves for rimming and fingering or using latex gloves for fisting.
- Covering sex toys with a new condom and wash them after use.
- Avoiding sex that involves contact with faeces .
- Washing your hands after touching someones anus or handling used condoms and sex toys.
- Using a new condom for every sexual partner and having regular STI tests.
- Having the hepatitis A vaccine if youre in close contact with someone with hepatitis A or if youre in a high-risk group. This can also be provided as prophylaxis if provided within two weeks of exposure.
Sharing contaminated needles and syringes during recreational drug use can also pass hepatitis A on. Make sure you use new injecting equipment every time you inject drugs.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis does not prevent you from getting hepatitis A, nor does the contraceptive pill or other forms of contraception .
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Diagnosing Hepatitis C In People Living With Hiv
Everyone with HIV should be tested to see if they also have hepatitis C. A blood test for antibodies to hepatitis C is used to see whether you have been exposed to the virus. You might be given a PCR test to confirm infection.
In people living with HIV, the diagnosis of hepatitis C can be more difficult, as the infection may not show up on their antibody tests.
If you think you may be at risk of hepatitis C infection, you should have regular tests to see if you have been infected with the virus.
Diagnosis And Treatment Of Hcv Infection
Hepatitis C is rarely diagnosed at the time of infection, since few individuals are symptomatic. Asymptomatic cases may be detected, however, through recommended screening in high-risk populations, such as intravenous drug users and recipients of blood transfusions or organ transplants in which the tissues were not initially tested for HCV. Diagnostic testing and screening for hepatitis C centres on the detection of circulating antibodies and RNA specific to HCV. HCV RNA is detectable within 1 to 3 weeks of infection, and the antibodies are usually detectable within 8 to 12 weeks.
Treatment of hepatitis C is focused on the elimination of viral infection, improvement of liver function, and the prevention of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Liver function may be improved with the use of interferon, which reduces HCV replication and stimulates the immune system to fight HCV infection. Interferon is often given in combination with ribavirin, an antiviral drug that mimics nucleosides and thereby interferes with viral reproduction. Ribavirin may also be used in combination with agents known as sofosbuvir and velpatasvir, which inhibit key molecules involved in HCV RNA replication. Treatment of end-stage or advanced liver disease and cirrhosis caused by HCV infection is also possible with liver transplantation, though recurrence of detectable HCV infection is almost universal after transplantation.
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Is Liver Transplantation An Option For A Person With Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is the leading reason for 40% to 45% of liver transplants in the U.S. Hepatitis C usually recurs after transplantation and infects the new liver. Approximately 25% of these patients with recurrent hepatitis will develop cirrhosis within five years of transplantation. Despite this, the five-year survival rate for patients with hepatitis C is similar to that of patients who are transplanted for other types of liver disease.
Most transplant centers delay therapy until recurrent hepatitis C in the transplanted liver is confirmed. Oral, highly effective, direct-acting antivirals have shown encouraging results in patients who have undergone liver transplantation for hepatitis C infection and have recurrent hepatitis C. The choice of therapy needs to be individualized and is rapidly evolving.
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
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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 Does The Future Look Like After Hepatitis C Treatment
Because DAAs are so effective and can completely cure the disease, most of those with hep C go on to live normal, healthy lives. But there is a caveat in all this: DAAs are not vaccines and cant prevent you from getting the infection again .
If you engage in the same behaviors that led to the infection , youll be at risk for contracting the disease again. Be safe.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
See your GP if you persistently have any of the later symptoms above, or if they keep returning. They may recommend having a blood test that can check for hepatitis C. Read more about diagnosing hepatitis C.
None of the symptoms above mean you definitely have hepatitis C, but it’s important to get them checked out.
You should also speak to your GP about getting tested if there’s a risk you’re infected, even if you don’t have any symptoms. This particularly includes people who inject drugs or have done so in the past.
Read about the causes of hepatitis C for more information about who’s at risk of having the infection.
Treating Hepatitis C Together With Hiv
If youre HIV positive and have hepatitis C infection, then you must receive care from a doctor skilled in the treatment of both HIV and hepatitis.
Due to the new direct-acting antiviral drugs, people living with HIV and hepatitis C co-infection can be treated with most of the same hepatitis C drug regimens as HIV-negative people. Research has shown that cure rates are the same.
Unlike treatment for HIV, hepatitis C treatment is not for life. New drugs to treat hepatitis C only need to be taken for up to 3 months.
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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.
What Are The Chances Of Getting Hepatitis C From Sex
Hepatitis C can spread through sexual intercourse, but it’s rare. And it’s extremely rare among monogamous couples. In fact, the CDC considers the risk of sexual transmission between monogamous couples so low that it doesn’t even recommend using condoms. Also, there’s no evidence that hepatitis C is spread by oral sex. But you should avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers, and sex during menstruation.
If you have HIV or if you have multiple partners, you should take precautions. Using condoms will protect you and your partners.
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Symptoms Of Hcv Infection
About 70 to 80 percent of individuals who contract HCV show no symptoms of acute hepatitis. When present, symptoms of acute illness may include fever, malaise, nausea, jaundice, arthralgia , dark urine, pale stools, and abdominal pain. Acute symptoms typically subside within several weeks. In very rare instances, primarily when another chronic liver disease is present, acute illness culminates in fulminant hepatic failure.
In roughly 70 to 90 percent of persons infected with HCV, the virus persists in the liver following the acute phase of infection. In the majority of cases, chronic infection is asymptomatic for decades. The infection may be noticed only after routine blood tests reveal elevated levels of liver enzymes, by which time liver function has begun to decline. Symptomatic patients may experience fatigue, nausea, anorexia, myalgia , arthralgia, weakness, and weight loss. Complications arising from chronic HCV infection include cirrhosis , liver failure, and liver cancer.
How To Prevent Hepatitis C Infection
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection. To reduce the risk of infection, avoid sharing personal items with others. Do not use injected drugs. If you do use injected drugs, never share needles and equipment with others. Getting tattoos and body piercings can put you at risk. Use condoms during sex. Health care workers should take precautions to avoid needlesticks and properly dispose of needles and other materials that encounter blood. Speak to your doctor about your risk factors and follow recommended screening standards for hepatitis C.
How to Prevent Giving Hepatitis C
If you have hepatitis C, these common precautions should be followed to prevent spreading or giving hepatitis C to others:
- Cover cuts and blisters
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Undercooked And Raw Shellfish
Shellfish are animals that filter the water from their surroundings. Because of this, they can become contaminated with hepatitis A virus if they are grown in polluted waters. To be safe, cook shellfish thoroughly before eating it. Undercooked shellfish like oysters, mussels, and clams may harbor and transmit hepatitis A. You may prefer the taste of raw oysters, but cooked shellfish really is safer. Protect your health and skip the raw oyster bar.
Contaminated Needles And Infected Blood
You can get hepatitis C from sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment during recreational drug use. Banknotes and straws used for snorting may also pass the virus on.
Being exposed to unsterilised tattoo and body piercing equipment can also pass hepatitis C on. Occasionally, you can get it from sharing a towel, razor blades or a toothbrush if there is infected blood on them.
Hepatitis C infection is also passed on in healthcare settings, from needle stick injuries or from medical and dental equipment that has not been properly sterilised. In countries where blood products are not routinely screened, you can also get hepatitis C by receiving a transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
You can prevent hepatitis C by:
- never sharing needles and syringes or other items that may be contaminated with infected blood
- only having tattoos, body piercings or acupuncture in a professional setting, where new, sterile needles are used
- following the standard infection control precautions, if youre working in a healthcare setting.
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