How Can I Protect Myself From Hepatitis C Infection
If you dont have hepatitis C, 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 persons 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
Hepatitis C can spread from person to person during sex, but the chances are low. People who have multiple sex partners, have HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, or who engage in rough or anal sex have a higher chance of getting hepatitis C. Talk with your doctor about your risk of getting hepatitis C through sex and about safe sex practices, such as using a latex or polyurethane condom to help prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
If you had hepatitis C in the past and your body fought off the infection or medicines cured the infection, you can get hepatitis C again. Follow the steps above, and talk with your doctor about how to protect yourself from another hepatitis C infection.
If you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage.
Antiviral Medication For Hepatitis B
Doctors may recommend antiviral medication for people with chronic hepatitis B, which occurs when the virus stays in your body for more than six months.
Antiviral medication prevents the virus from replicating, or creating copies of itself, and may prevent progressive liver damage. Currently available medications can treat hepatitis B with a low risk of serious side effects.
NYU Langone hepatologists and infectious disease specialists prescribe medication when they have determined that without treatment, the hepatitis B virus is very likely to damage the liver over time. People with chronic hepatitis B may need to take antiviral medication for the rest of their lives to prevent liver damage.
There are many different types of antiviral medications available, and your doctor recommends the right type for you based on your symptoms, your overall health, and the results of diagnostic tests. A doctor may take a wait-and-see approach with a person who has a healthy liver and whose blood tests indicate a low viral load, the number of copies of the hepatitis B virus in your bloodstream.
Someone with HIV infection or AIDS may have a weakened immune system and is therefore more likely to develop liver damage. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends that people with HIV infection who are diagnosed with hepatitis B immediately begin treatment with antiviral medication.
Ways Hepatitis C Doesnt Spread
The hepatitis C virus spreads through blood, but it isnt known to spread through other bodily fluids.
It isnt transmitted in food or water, or by sharing eating utensils or dishes with an infected person. You cant spread it by casual contact such as hugging or holding hands. Its not transmitted in a kiss, a cough, or a sneeze. Mothers with hepatitis C can safely breastfeed. Even mosquito and other insect bites wont spread it.
In short, you have to come into direct contact with infected blood.
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How Can You Prevent Hepatitis B And Hepatitis C
Hepatitis B: Vaccination is the best way to prevent all of the ways that hepatitis B is transmitted. People with HIV who do not have active HBV infection should be vaccinated against it. In addition to the 3-dose series of hepatitis B vaccine given over 6 months, as of 2017, there is a 2-dose series given over 1 month.
Hepatitis C: No vaccine exists for HCV and no effective pre- or postexposure prophylaxis is available. The best way to prevent hepatitis C infection is to never inject drugs or to stop injecting drugs by getting into and staying in drug treatment. If you continue injecting drugs, always use new, sterile needles or syringes, and never reuse or share needles or syringes, water, or other drug preparation equipment.
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.
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Protecting The Blood Supply
One of the main problems with preventing hepatitis C is that most people who are infected donât show symptoms at first. Many only find out when they have a blood test for an unrelated reason. Until relatively recently, this often led to infected blood and organs being used in transfusions and transplants.
As of July 1992, all blood and organ donations are screened for the hepatitis C virus. Although not perfect, only about 1 in 2 million blood transfusions may transmit hepatitis C. Anyone who received a blood transfusion or organ donation before July 1992 should be tested for the virus.
As of 1987, all blood products for the treatment of hemophilia are treated to remove infectious viruses, such as hepatitis C and HIV. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 18 get tested for Hepatitis C. If you haven’t been screened, you should consider having it done and if you took any of these blood products before 1987, you should be proactive in being tested for hepatitis C.
How Do Doctors Treat The Complications Of Hepatitis C
If hepatitis C leads to cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Doctors can treat the health problems related to cirrhosis with medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If you have cirrhosis, you have an increased chance of liver cancer. Your doctor may order an ultrasound test to check for liver cancer.
If hepatitis C leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
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What Causes Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus causes hepatitis C. The hepatitis C virus spreads through contact with an infected persons blood. Contact can occur by
- sharing drug needles or other drug materials with an infected person
- getting an accidental stick with a needle that was used on an infected person
- being tattooed or pierced with tools or inks that were not kept sterilefree from all viruses and other microorganismsand were used on an infected person before they were used on you
- having contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
- using an infected persons razor, toothbrush, or nail clippers
- being born to a mother with hepatitis C
- having unprotected sex with an infected person
You cant get hepatitis C from
- being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person
- drinking water or eating food
- hugging an infected person
- shaking hands or holding hands with an infected person
- sharing spoons, forks, and other eating utensils
- sitting next to an infected person
A baby cant get hepatitis C from breast milk.18
Can You Prevent Hepatitis
There are many ways to prevent hepatitis, from getting a vaccine to washing your hands well. But it all depends on what type you have. Here are some tips for preventing the three major kinds of this liver disease — hepatitis A, B, and C — and explanations of how one spreads in a different way.
How to prevent hepatitis A: You can get hepatitis A if you eat food or drink water that has the hepatitis A virus in it. You could also get infected if you’re in close physical contact with someone who has the disease or have sex with someone who has it.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get a vaccine. Kids should get a shot around their first birthday.
As an adult, you should get the shot if you:
- Travel to Africa, Asia , the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean
- Use recreational drugs
- Work in a day-care center, nursing home, or you’re a health care professional
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Have long-term liver disease
- Take blood products to treat hemophilia or other conditions
If you’re planning a trip to a place where there are outbreaks of hepatitis A, keep in mind that the vaccine only starts to work 2 to 4 weeks after you get it. And if you want long-term protection, you’ll need a follow-up shot 6 to 12 months later.
If you haven’t had a hepatitis B shot as an adult, it’s important to get it if you:
- Live with someone who has hepatitis B
- Travel to a country with outbreaks of hepatitis B
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What Do Hepatitis C Symptoms Look Like
Hepatitis C infection can go through two stages: acute and chronic. In the early, or acute stage, most people don’t have symptoms. If they do develop symptoms, these can include:
- flu-like symptoms, tiredness, high temperature and aches and pains
- loss of appetite
- tummy pain
- jaundice, meaning your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow
While for some people, the infection will clear without treatment, in most cases, acute infection will develop into long-term chronic infection. Chronic infection may not become apparent for a number of years until the liver displays signs of damage. These symptoms can include:
- mental confusion and depression these are specific to hepatitis C
- constantly feeling tired
- nausea, vomiting or tummy pain
- dark urine
- feeling bloated
- joint and muscle pain
Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver , which can cause the liver to stop working properly. A small number of people with cirrhosis develop liver cancer and these complications can lead to death. Other than a liver transplant, theres no cure for cirrhosis. However, treatments can help relieve some of the symptoms.
Getting Tested For Hepatitis C
Seek medical advice if you have persistent symptoms of hepatitis C or there’s a risk you’re infected, even if you do not have any symptoms.
A blood test can be carried out to see if you have the infection.
GPs, sexual health clinics, genitourinary medicine clinics or drug treatment services all offer testing for hepatitis C.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent or limit any damage to your liver, as well as help ensure the infection is not passed on to other people.
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Antiviral Medication For Hepatitis C
For people with hepatitis C, the goal of treatment with antiviral medication is to prevent the virus from replicating, or copying itself, and to eliminate the virus from the bloodstream. If the hepatitis C virus has been in the body for more than six months, the infection is considered chronic. Without treatment, most people with acute hepatitis C develop the chronic form of the disease.
Your doctor decides which antiviral medicationor combination of medicationsto prescribe based on the results of a blood test called a genotype test. There are six genotypes, or strains, of the hepatitis C virus, and people with certain genotypes respond more quickly to medical treatment.
For many years, the standard treatment for chronic hepatitis C consisted of the antiviral medications pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Ribavirin is taken by mouth every day, and interferon is an injection that you or a caregiver can administer once a week at home.
In 2013 and 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a group of new medications for the treatment of hepatitis C. These medications, which include sofosbuvir, are very effective and have fewer side effects than older medications, particularly interferon.
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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How Is Hepatitis C Infection Prevented
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. To reduce your risk of getting hepatitis C:
- Injection drug use is the most common way people get hepatitis C. Avoid injecting drugs to reduce your risk. If you do inject drugs, use sterile injection equipment. Avoid reusing or sharing.
- Avoid sharing personal care items that might have blood on them
- If you are a health care or public safety worker, follow universal blood/body fluid precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps
- Consider the risks if you are thinking about tattooing, body piercing, or acupuncture are the instruments properly sterilized?
- If youre having sex with more than one partner, use latex condoms correctly and every time to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis C.
Vaccination For Hepatitis A And Hepatitis B
Vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B are the most effective preventive measures against those viruses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended these vaccines for all babies as part of routine healthcare since the 1990s.
The vaccine can be administered to people of any age. If you were not vaccinated as a baby, it is fine to be vaccinated now. Vaccination provides long-term protection from infection.
Even if you have recently been exposed to the virus, the vaccine may prevent infection. Ideally, vaccination takes place within 24 hours of a possible exposure.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Our doctors recommend adopting certain behaviorssuch as avoiding shared needles and other risk factorsto prevent infection.
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Dont Share Drug Needles Or Paraphernalia
New hepatitis C infections are more common among people who inject drugs, per past research. This is because many drug users share needles, and it only takes a single drop of infected blood for the virus to spread from person to person.
But the virus doesnt only spread through the use of drug needles. It can also spread when two people share a straw or dollar bill for snorting cocaine, when traces of blood are present in the nose.
The best way to prevent an infection is to stop injecting drugs. This will most likely involve getting treatment for substance abuse and addiction. At the very least, only use newly packaged sterile syringes and needles, and never share drug-injecting equipment with others.
How Can I Prevent Hepatitis C
Since there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, the best way to prevent hepatitis C infection is to avoid contact with the blood of infected people. This includes:
- If you shoot drugs, never share works with anyone. This includes all drug injection equipment that can get blood on or in it . Sterile syringes can be purchased over the counter in most pharmacies in Massachusetts by anyone 18 years of age or older. Find out about drug treatment programs that can help you stop using drugs.
- Only get tattoos or body piercings at places using sterile equipment and supplies.
- Never share razors, toothbrushes, or nail clippers
- The risk of sexual transmission is low, but use of latex condoms during vaginal or anal sex will reduce the risk even more
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The Following Are The Guidelines For Treating Hepatitis Patients
No dental treatment other than urgent care should be rendered for a patient with acute viral hepatitis
Hepatitis B is of primary concern to the dentist. Individuals still carry the virus up to 3 months after the symptoms have disappeared, so any patient with a recent history of hepatitis B should be treated for dental emergency problems only
For patient with a past history of hepatitis, consult the physician to determine the type of hepatitis, course and length of the disease, mode of transmission, and any chronic liver disease or viral carrier state
For recovered HAV or HEV, perform routine periodontal care
For recovered HBV and HDV, consult with the physician and order HBsAg and HBs laboratory tests.
If HBsAg and anti-HBs tests are negative but HBV is suspected, order another HBs determination
Patients who are HBsAg positive are probably infective the degree of infectivity is measured by an HBsAg determination
Patients who are anti-HBs positive may be treated routinely
Patients who are HBsAg negative may be treated routinely.
What Is Hepatitis
Hepatitis is any kind of inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis has many causes, including viruses , drugs, chemicals and alcohol, and even ones own immune system attacking the liver. At this time, there are five viruses known to affect the liver in particular. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. These viruses are very different from one another, but all are infectious and may cause similar symptoms. They differ in how they are spread, how long the infection lasts, and how they are treated. A healthcare provider can test a persons blood for infection with hepatitis A, B and C virus.
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How Is It Spread
The hepatitis C virus is spread by direct contact with blood of an infected person. This can happen through:
- Sharing equipment used to inject drugs
- Blood transfusions and organ transplants prior to 1992 when widespread screening of the blood supply began
- Pregnant women infected with the virus passing it to their babies at birth.
- Sharing personal items, such as a toothbrushes, nail clippers, or razors that have blood on it
- Getting tattoos or body piercings in informal settings or with non-sterile equipment
- Poor infection control in health care facilities and residential care facilities
- Sexual transmission is possible, although rare. Things that increase sexual transmission of hepatitis C include: having a sexually transmitted disease or HIV infection, sex with multiple partners, or rough sex
- The hepatitis C virus is NOT spread by casual contact, such as hugging, or through sneezing, coughing, or sharing food and drinks.