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How Is Hepatitis C Contracted

How Many People Have Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C? | How is Hepatitis C Transmitted?

During 2013-2016 it was estimated that about two and half million people were chronically infected with HCV in the United States. The actual number may be as low as 2.0 million or as high as 2.8 million.Globally, hepatitis C is a common blood-borne infection with an estimated 71 million people chronically infected according to the World Health Organization .

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.

Is Everyone Tested For Both Hepatitis B And C

Hepatitis B

The US Centers for Disease and Control recommends testing for certain high-risk groups for hepatitis B.

  • High-risk groups include people not born in the US, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and people with hepatitis C, among other groups.
  • If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis B, contact your doctor right away. A treatment is available that may reduce your risk of infection if you receive this medicine within 24 hours of exposure to the virus.

Hepatitis C

The CDC recommends that all adults 18 years and older be tested for hepatitis C at least once. Pregnant women should be tested during each pregnancy. Getting tested for hepatitis C is important, because HCV treatments can cure most people in 8 to 12 weeks. If you are at higher risk for HCV, youll need to be tested more frequently.

Treatments for both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are in a class called antivirals, but the medications that are used are different.

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What Medications Cure Hepatitis C Infection

How is hepatitis C transmitted?

Interferons, for example, Roferon-A and Infergen, and pegylated interferons such as Peg-IntronT, Pegasys, were mainstays of treatment for years. Interferons produced sustained viral response of up to 15%. Later, peglatedll forms produced SVR of 50%-80%. These drugs were injected, had many adverse effects, required frequent monitoring, and were often combined with oral ribavirin, which caused anemia. Treatment durations ranged up to 48 weeks.

Direct-acting anti-viral agents are antiviral drugs that act directly on hepatitis C multiplication.

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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

Activities That Do Not Spread Hepatitis C

Because HCV is spread through blood, you cannot get the virus from:

  • Breast milk
  • Food or water
  • Casual contact with an HCV-infected person, such as hugging, holding hands, or kissing
  • Being coughed or sneezed on
  • Sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils
  • Via mosquitoes or other insects

Additional reporting by Deborah Shapiro.

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How Are Hepatitis B And Hepatitis C Spread From Person To Person

Like HIV, the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses spread:

  • From mother to child: Pregnant women can pass these infections to their infants. HIV-HCV coinfection increases the risk of passing on hepatitis C to the baby.
  • Sexually: Both viruses can also be transmitted sexually, but HBV is much more likely than HCV to be transmitted sexually. Sexual transmission of HCV is most likely to happen among gay and bisexual men who are living with HIV.

Who Is Most At Risk Of Contracting Hepatitis C

How Is Hepatitis Transmitted?

You have a high risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:

  • use or have used injection drugs even if it was just once or many years ago
  • have received blood or blood products or an organ transplant before July 1990 in Canada
  • have been in jail or
  • have been injected or scratched during vaccination, surgery, blood transfusion or a religious/ceremonial ritual in regions where hepatitis C is common.

You have a high moderate risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:

  • have tattoos or body piercing
  • have multiple sexual partners
  • have a sexually transmitted infection , including HIV or lymphogranuloma venereum
  • have experienced traumatic sex or rough sex or have used sex toys or fisting that can tear body tissue
  • have vaginal sex during menstruation
  • have received a kidney treatment
  • have received an accidental injury from a needle or syringe
  • have another infectious disease
  • were born to a hepatitis C infected mother or
  • have a sexual partner infected with hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is NOT passed from person to person by:

  • coughing, sneezing
  • breastfeeding unless your nipples are cracked and bleeding or
  • oral sex, unless blood is present.

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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.

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.

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There Are So Many Reasons To Get Treated

Todays hepatitis C treatments generally have cure rates of 95% or higher, without the harsh side effects of previous medicines.

Even people who couldnt cure their Hep C in the past may have success with treatment.

Hep C treatments work in different ways and are not all the same. Your Hep C Specialist will determine which treatment is right for you.

Cure means the Hep C virus is not detected in the blood when measured 3 months after treatment is completed.

What Can I Do If I Think I Have Hepatitis C

The Symptoms, Stigma, and Struggles of Life with Hep C ...

A doctor or sexual health clinician can test you to see if you have hepatitis C. If you do, effective treatment with fewer side effects than the older medicine is available and you can discuss how to avoid infecting your sexual partners or people you live with.

It can take three to six months before the blood test for hepatitis C will be able to detect signs of infection in your blood. For people with HIV who may be immunocompromised, the antibody may not be detectable and it may be necessary to request an RNA test which detects the virus.

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How The Hepatitis C Virus Spreads

In the past, hepatitis C was often spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. This changed in 1992 when widespread, more-advanced blood screening techniques became available.

The risk of contracting HCV in this manner is now less than one chance per 2 million units transfused, according to the CDC. But former transfusion practices are likely one reason why hepatitis C disproportionately affects baby boomers, who received blood transfusions before better screening was implemented. People born between 1945 and 1965 make up about three-quarters of the 3.5 million Americans with hepatitis C.

Today the most common way that hepatitis is spread is through the sharing of needles and other equipment for drug use. Though baby boomers are still more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than people of other age groups, the CDC reported in 2017 that new hepatitis C infections had almost tripled over the previous five years and, as a group, 20- to 29-year-olds have the highest number of new infections. This is seen as a result of the increased use of IV drugs connected to the opioid epidemic in the United States.

The CDC also notes that infections are rising among women of childbearing age. While the virus is not always transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby, it is possible: About 6 infants in 100 born to mothers with the virus are infected.

You can also be exposed to HCV through:

Finding A Hep C Specialist

Hep C treatments can be prescribed by many different Hep C Specialists, including gastroenterologists, general practitioners, nurse practitioners, and addiction medicine specialists.

To find a Hep C Specialist near you, enter your city and state or ZIP code.

  • Gastroenterologists

    A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of diseases that affect the digestive system.

  • Hepatologists

    A hepatologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of diseases that affect the liver.

  • Other Specialists

    Other specialists who treat Hep C may include, but are not limited to, infectious disease specialists, primry care physicians , internal medicine specialists , family doctors, nurse practitioners , and physician assistants .

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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

How Is Monitoring Done After Treatment For Hepatitis C

How is Hepatitis B & C transmitted? | Apollo Hospitals

Once patients successfully complete treatment, the viral load after treatment determines if there is an SVR or cure. If cure is achieved , no further additional testing is recommended unless the patient has cirrhosis. Those who are not cured will need continued monitoring for progression of liver disease and its complications.

While cure eliminates worsening of fibrosis by hepatitis C, complications may still affect those with cirrhosis. These individuals still need regular screening for liver cancer as well as monitoring for esophageal varices that may bleed.

Because hepatitis B co-infection may reactivate or worsen even after treatment for HCV, monitoring for hepatitis symptoms may be needed after the end of therapy.

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How Do You Test For Hepatitis C

A simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have the virus. You may also be given an extra test to see if your liver is damaged.

If youve got hepatitis C you should be tested for other STIs. It’s important that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have hepatitis C do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on. It can also stop you from getting the infection again.

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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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.

How Do People Get Hepatitis C

Chronic Phase of Hepatitis C: Progression &  Liver Disease

Hepatitis C virus is found in the blood of people with HCV infection. It enters the body through blood-to-blood contact.

Until reliable blood tests for HCV were developed , people usually got hepatitis C from blood products and blood transfusions. Now that blood and blood products are tested for HCV, this is no longer the typical means of infection.

Currently, people usually get hepatitis C by sharing needles for injection drug use. An HCV-infected woman can pass the infection to her baby during birth. It is also possible to get hepatitis C from an infected person through sexual contact, an accidental needlestick with a contaminated needle, or improperly sterilized medical, acupuncture, piercing, or tattooing equipment.

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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%.

Giving Blood And Organ Donation

If you have hepatitis C, you cannot give blood.

In a recent research study in America kidneys from people with hepatitis C who had died were transplanted into patients who did not have the virus.

All of the recipients subsequently contracted hepatitis C but were treated for it and all were cured. The benefit of receiving a kidney outweighed the risk of not clearing hepatitis C.

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