What To Think About
Researchers are working to develop other treatments, including gene therapy and medicines that help control the immune system.
Direct Exposure To Blood
Exposure to large amounts of contaminated blood increases the risk for hepatitis C transmission. If you get a cut and need help tending it, whoever helps you should first put on disposable gloves to prevent exposure in case he or she has a cut. You can also help prevent hepatitis C transmission by covering any cuts or sores with bandages until theyre healed and disposing of used bandages properly.
Uninfected people should take steps to avoid getting someone elses blood in their eyes, nose, and mouth. If an uninfected persons skin is exposed to contaminated blood, wash the area with soap and water immediately. If blood gets in the eyes, rinse them with running water right away and call a doctor to find out about further steps that should be taken.
When cleaning blood from surfaces, Dr. Lee recommends using a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water. Dried blood should also be handled with care because the virus can live for several days outside the body.
The CDC recommends that if youve ever tested positive for hepatitis C, you should abstain from donating blood, organs, or semen.
Hiv And Hepatitis C Coinfection
HCV infection is common among people with HIV who also inject drugs. Nearly 75% of people living with HIV who report a history of injection drug use are co-infected with HCV. All people who are diagnosed with HIV are recommended to be tested for HCV at least once. People living with HIV are at greater risk for complications and death from HCV infection. Fortunately, direct acting antivirals that are used to treat HCV work equally well in people with and without HIV infection. For more information about HIV and HCV coinfection, visit the HIV.govs pages about hepatitis C and HIV coinfection.
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Can Hcv Infection Be Prevented
The best protection against HCV is to never inject drugs. If you do inject drugs, always use new, sterile needles, and do not reuse or share needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment.
People, including people with HIV, can also take the following steps to reduce their risk of HCV infection:
- Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal items that may come in contact with another personâs blood.
- If you get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure the instruments used are sterile.
- Use condoms during sex. The risk of HCV infection through sexual contact is low, but the risk increases in people with HIV. Condoms also reduce the risk of HIV transmission and infection with other sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and syphilis.
Can I Catch Hep C From Sex
Understandably, thats a common question doctors hear. Thankfully, the risk is pretty low, says Dr. Fox. There have been lots of studies of couples who are discordantwhere one person is positive for hep C and one is negativeand sexual transmission between heterosexual partners is very infrequent, she says. On the other hand, the risk rises slightly with anal sex, where bleeding is more common, and transmission is greater if one partner has HIV.
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What Is The Connection Between Hiv And Hcv
Because both HIV and HCV can spread in blood, a major risk factor for both HIV and HCV infection is injection drug use. Sharing needles or other drug injection equipment increases the risk of contact with HIV- or HCV-infected blood.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , approximately 21% of people with HIV in the United States also have HCV. Infection with both HIV and HCV is called HIV/HCV coinfection.
In people with HIV/HCV coinfection, HIV may cause chronic HCV to advance faster. Whether HCV causes HIV to advance faster is unclear.
No Identifiable Source Of Infection
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injection drug use accounts for approximately 60% of all HCV infections in the United States, while other known exposures account for 20-30%. Approximately 10% of patients in most epidemiological studies, however, have no identifiable source of infection. HCV exposure in these patients may be from a number of uncommon modes of transmission, including vertical transmission, and parenteral transmission from medical or dental procedures prior to the availability of HCV testing. There are no conclusive data to show that persons with a history of exposures such as intranasal cocaine use, tattooing or body piercing are at an increased risk for HCV infection based on these exposures solely. It is believed, however, that these are potential modes of HCV acquisition in the absence of adequate sterilization techniques.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Hepatitis C
The two most common risk factors for HCV are injection drug use and having had a blood transfusion before 1992.
Before 1992, blood donations werent tested for HCV. Many people were infected when they were given HCV-positive blood during a transfusion.
Today, all donated blood is checked for HCV, among other viruses.
A third risk factor is having tattoos. In one study , people with HCV were found to be more likely to have tattoos than people without the virus.
This study also controlled for people who may have HCV because of injected drug use and a contaminated blood transfusion.
Not only is it possible to share your infection if you have HCV and get a tattoo, but you might also develop an infection from exposure to a contaminated needle.
Tests To Diagnose Hepatitis C
How is Hepatitis C diagnosed?
There are two main blood tests typically used to diagnose Hepatitis C. First, youll have a screening test that shows if youve ever had Hepatitis C at some point in your life. If this test is positive, youll have a second test to see if you have Hepatitis C now. These blood tests are described below:
Hepatitis C antibody test
This is the screening test used by doctors to show whether or not you have ever been exposed to Hepatitis C at some time in your life, by detecting antibodies in your blood. Antibodies are substances your body makes to fight off all kinds of infections. If you were ever infected with Hepatitis C, your body would have made antibodies to fight the virus.
If the test result is:
- Negative, it means you have not been exposed to Hepatitis C and further testing is usually not needed.
- Positive, you have had Hepatitis C at some point. However, it does not tell you whether you have it now. Youll need to see your doctor for another test the Hepatitis C RNA test to determine if the virus is still active and present in your blood.
Hepatitis C RNA Qualitative Test
This test will determine whether or not you are currently infected with Hepatitis C. It is often called the PCR test because of the process used . It looks for the genetic material of the Hepatitis C virus in your blood.
If the test result is:
Hepatitis C RNA Quantitative Test
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Addressing Hepatitis For The First Time
It is crucial that a treatment counselor or health professional use a nonjudgmental and compassionate tone. Clients need to feel comfortable disclosing information about their health and risky behaviors. The following strategies can help initiate the conversation:
- Display posters, literature, or other -related items that could help prompt the client to ask questions about hepatitis. .
- Assess clients ability to discuss , based on their degree of openness in the counseling session, the amount of detail they provide in their responses, and the length of the therapeutic relationship.
- Raise the subject in a way that avoids making clients feel defensive or afraid. Consider introducing the subject by making parallels with other conditions that have been discussed. Say, for example, You said you were tested for HIV several times. Were you ever tested for viral ? or You mentioned that your friend is sick with HIV. Have you been tested for HCV or HIV? Tell me about those tests.
- Be patient and allow time for multiple, short conversations about the subject. This might ease feelings of fear, anxiety, or shame.
Awareness Prevention And Early Diagnosis Are Essential
There’s a good reason why hepatitis C is known as a “silent killer.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.2 million Americans live with chronic hepatitis C infection, which is transmitted through infected bodily fluids like blood and semen, and causes inflammation of the liver. Yet up to 75% of people who have hepatitis C aren’t aware they have it.
Most of those living with the virus experience only mild symptoms or don’t have any symptoms at all until they develop serious liver damage or another life-threatening liver disease. Unfortunately, that means they aren’t getting diagnosed and treatment is delayed until the later stages when irreversible liver damage has occurred.
Here, hepatologistNancy Reau, MD, associate director of the Solid Organ Transplant Program at Rush University Medical Center, explains who is at risk for hepatitis C and offers advice to help you protect yourself.
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Should People With Hiv Get Tested For Hcv
Every person who has HIV should get tested for HCV. Usually, a person will first get an HCV antibody test. This test checks for HCV antibodies in the blood. HCV antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that the body produces in response to HCV infection.
A positive result on an HCV antibody test means that the person has been exposed to HCV at some point in their life. However, a positive antibody test does not necessarily mean the person has HCV. For this reason, a positive result on an HCV antibody test must be confirmed by a second test. This follow-up test checks to see if HCV is present in the personâs blood. A positive result on this test confirms that a person has HCV.
Haemophilus Influenzae Type B Vaccination
- Anatomical or functional asplenia : 1 dose if previously did not receive Hib if elective splenectomy, 1 dose, preferably at least 14 days before splenectomy
- Hematopoietic stem cell transplant : 3-dose series 4 weeks apart starting 612 months after successful transplant, regardless of Hib vaccination history
- Not at risk but want protection from hepatitis A: 2-dose series HepA or 3-dose series HepA-HepB
- At risk for hepatitis A virus infection: 2-dose series HepA or 3-dose series HepA-HepB as above
- Chronic liver disease
- HIV infection
- Not at risk but want protection from hepatitis B: 2- or 3-dose series or 3-dose series HepA-HepB
- At risk for hepatitis B virus infection: 2-dose or 3-dose series or 3-dose series HepA-HepB as above
- Chronic liver disease
- HIV infection
- Sexual exposure risk
- Current or recent injection drug use
- Percutaneous or mucosal risk for exposure to blood
- Incarcerated persons
- Travel in countries with high or intermediate endemic hepatitis B
- Pregnancy if at risk for infection or severe outcome from infection during pregnancy. Heplisav-B not currently recommended due to lack of safety data in pregnant women
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Tests For The Hepatitis C Virus
If your doctor thinks that you may have hepatitis C, he or she may order:
- A hepatitis C virus test. This is a blood test that looks for antibodies against the hepatitis C virus. It shows whether you have been exposed to the virus.
- A blood test that looks for the genetic material of the hepatitis C virus. This test shows whether you are infected with the virus now.
- A blood test to find out the kind of hepatitis C virus you have. Knowing your genotype will help you and your doctor decide if and how you should be treated.
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.
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Which Hepatitis Is An Std
Hepatitis A, B, and C can be sexually transmitted.
- Hepatitis A: Although the fecal-oral route is common for hepatitis A, the virus can also be transmitted from any sexual activity. The use of condoms does not effectively prevent the spread of hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis B: Sexual contact is the most common mode of Hepatitis B transmission in the United States. Compared to HIV, a hepatitis B infection is 50 to 100 times more likely to be transmitted sexually. The transmission risk is higher among unvaccinated people with risk behaviors like having multiple sex partners and men having sex with men .
- Hepatitis C: The Hepatitis C virus may be transmitted via sexual contact. However, studies have shown that such transmission is very rare. A higher rate of sexual transmission of the hepatitis C infection is seen in MSM, especially those who practice unprotected anal intercourse and have an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus .
Baby Boomers Are Especially Vulnerable
“The hepatitis C virus didn’t have a name or a screening test until in 1989,” Reau says. “That means people born between 1945 and 1965, the group referred to as ‘baby boomers,’ are at highest risk of infection. They grew up before health care facilities started taking standard precautions, like not sharing vials of medicine among patients and requiring staff to wear gloves.”
The CDC reports that baby boomers are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C than other adults, accounting for 75% of those living with the disease.
These are some other reasons you may be at risk:
- You have engaged in high-risk behaviors like IV drug use or unprotected sex
- Your biological mother has/had hepatitis C
- You received blood transfusions, an organ transplant or dialysis before 1989
- You were or are currently incarcerated
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Is There A Hepatitis C Vaccine
Prevention truly is your best medicine for hepatitis C because unlike its cousins, hepatitis A and B, hepatitis C has no vaccine. Thats not for lack of trying: There are currently clinical trials underway to find a vaccine, and in a study published last year in Science Advances, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, showed proof of concept for the development of a vaccine. But despite this progress, not every expert is convinced a vaccine is in the near offing. There are people who have tried to make a hepatitis C vaccine for 20 years and couldnt do it, says Dr. Dieterich. This is a virus that mutates a lot.
In other words, going on the offense with a commitment to healthy behaviors is going to be your best defense against hepatitis C. You can set yourself up for a healthy future, too, by taking advantage of the May 19 National Hepatitis Testing Day and getting yourself checked. Remember, the disease is curablebut only if you know you have it. Go get tested for free today: You literally have nothing to lose.
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Complications Of Hepatitis C
If the infection is left untreated for many years, some people with hepatitis C will develop scarring of the liver .
Over time, this can cause the liver to stop working properly.
In severe cases, life-threatening problems, such as liver failure, where the liver loses most or all of its functions, or liver cancer, can eventually develop.
Treating hepatitis C as early as possible can help reduce the risk of these problems happening.
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Sharing Personal Care Items
The chances of spreading hepatitis C within your household are low but possible. To be safe, don’t share personal care items that could be contaminated with blood, Lee says. These include razors, toothbrushes, cuticle scissors, and nail clippers.
In addition, be mindful when you go to nail salons or barbershops, where the same tools are used on all customers. A study published in the November-December 2014 issue of the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice found that while regulations to safeguard the public exist in most states, it’s unknown how many businesses comply with them. Ask about tool-sterilization procedures before you frequent these establishments. You can also bring your own nail care supplies.