Blood Donations Before September 1991
Since September 1991, all blood donated in the UK is checked for the hepatitis C virus.
Theres a small chance you may have been infected with hepatitis C if:
- you received a blood transfusion or blood products before September 1991
- you received an organ transplant before 1992
Before 1992 donated organs were not routinely screened for hepatitis C and there is a very small risk a donated organ from someone with hepatitis C could spread the infection.
There are blood tests to check for hepatitis C infection
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
Rash Symptoms From Acute Hcv Infection
Acute hepatitis C symptoms occur in around 20% of people exposed to the virus. The symptoms usually develop two to 12 weeks after exposure and cause symptoms ranging from nausea and vomiting to dark urine and jaundice .
A less common symptom of acute HCV infection is urticaria, a widespread, itchy rash also known as hives. Urticaria is characterized by raised, red welts with well-defined borders.
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Skin Signs Of Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis not only affects the liver but also the blood and circulatory system. Abnormal blood clotting accompanied by bleeding and/or dilation of blood vessels near the surface of the skin can cause symptoms like:
- Spider angiomas: Also known as spider veins or spider nevus, these are thin reddish or purplish lines on the skin’s surface that look like a spider’s web.
- Petechiae: These are purplish dots on the skin caused by burst and bleeding capillaries, most often on the lower legs.
- Purpura: Also known as skin hemorrhages or blood spots, these purple-colored spots are larger than petechiae, mainly on the lower legs and ankles.
Should You Get Tested For Hepatitis C
Since you can live with hep C for decades without knowing itit can take 10 to 40 years for hep C to progress from mild disease to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancerthe Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends a one-time blood screening test for anyone born between 1945 and 1965. This population is more at risk of having received a tainted blood transfusion.
Hepatitis C can only be diagnosed through a simple blood test called an HCV antibody test. True to its name, it looks for antibodies, proteins released into the bloodstream, that show up in someone infected with the hep C virus. If you have a positive HCV antibody test, youll then be given a follow-up HCV RNA test to learn whether you have an active infection.
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Who Is More Likely To Get Hepatitis C
People more likely to get hepatitis C are those who
- have injected drugs
- had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
- have been on kidney dialysis
- have been in contact with blood or infected needles at work
- have had tattoos or body piercings
- have worked or lived in a prison
- were born to a mother with hepatitis C
- are infected with HIV
- have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months or have a history of sexually transmitted disease
- are men who have or had sex with men
In the United States, injecting drugs is the most common way that people get hepatitis C.13
Diagnosis Of Hepatitis C
If you are at risk of hepatitis C infection, or think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C in the past, see your doctor for an assessment of your liver health. This will include blood tests and possibly a non-invasive test for liver damage .
There are 2 blood tests used to diagnose hepatitis C. Usually these can be done at the same time but sometimes they will be done separately.
The first test known as a hepatitis C antibody test can tell you whether you have ever been exposed to hepatitis C.
It may take 2 to 3 months from the time of infection until a blood test can detect antibodies to hepatitis C, so there is a window period during which you cannot tell if you are or have been infected. In this time, take precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
The second test is called hepatitis C PCR, which will be done if the antibody test is positive. This determines if the virus is still present in your blood or liver or if you have already cleared the infection.
If you have cleared the virus or had successful treatment to cure it, the PCR test will be negative.
A liver ultrasound or Fibroscan can also be performed to assess if you have any liver damage.
If your doctor is inexperienced in diagnosing hepatitis C you can call the LiverLine on for information, and to find a GP who can help you.
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Early Signs To Look Out For
Like many diseases, Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic. Acute Hepatitis simply means that you have had it for less than six months, while chronic is the long-term version. When left untreated, acute Hepatitis C can develop into chronic Hepatitis C.
Thats why early detection is important for recovery. Hepatitis C causes damage to the liver, which is definitely not something you want to ignore. Complicating things is the fact that impaired liver function can be hard to detect, and a large number of people with the virus are never even diagnosed.
Perhaps the most well-known method of transmittal is through the blood, which can occur when an infected person shares a needle, or through sexual contact. The list of symptoms include:
- Off-color Feces
As previously mentioned, the primary way Hepatitis C is transmitted is through blood. Common situations where that can occur are:
- Getting a tattoo in unsanitary conditions
- Sharing or using needles
- Sharing or using any items that might have blood on them, like a razor or a toothbrush
- Had a blood transfusion before the early 90s
- Born to infected mother
- Nasal administration of drugs
For an individual who exhibits the listed symptoms and/or have been in the mentioned situations, getting tested would be the safest route to take.
On The Front Lines Of Curing Hepatitis C In New England
Testing for and treating hepatitis C in rural areas is a different challenge. In New Hampshire and Vermont, researchers are taking a mobile approach as part of the second-phase of the Rural New England Health Study focusing on injection drug users.
A joint effort between Better Life Partners, Baystate Health and Tufts University School of Medicine, a van offering hepatitis C testing, treatment and syringe services connects with people in rural communities in the Connecticut River Valley setting up in parking lots of community-based agencies people are already frequenting.
People who test positive for hepatitis C on the van are either referred to Dartmouth Medical Center or the University of Vermont Medical Center, or, participate in a trial to receive treatment directly on the van a way to measure effectiveness of mobile treatment.
Dr. Peter Freidmann, chief research officer at Baystate Health, said the availability of services in rural areas is “very limited,” and researchers wanted to focus on risk factors for injection drug users in communities as such. Whether people would respond positively to an unmarked van offering hepatitis C services was a big question.
Stopka said the van allows researchers and medical staff to “get into nooks and crannies of the community that otherwise won’t be reached or will have to go to great lengths to access services.”
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Can You Prevent Hepatitis C Infection
Thereâs no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. To avoid getting the virus:
- Use a latex condom every time you have sex.
- Don’t share personal items like razors.
- Don’t share needles, syringes, or other equipment when injecting drugs.
- Be careful if you get a tattoo, body piercing, or manicure. The equipment may have someone else’s blood on it.
Find out more on how to prevent hepatitis C.
Symptoms Of Infection With Hepatitis C
Symptoms of acute infection with hepatitis C
Acute infection is the period when you first contract the virus, during this period most people do not seem to experience any noticeable symptoms.
For the 25-35% of people who do, the symptoms are normally vague and non-specific.They can include: Abdominal pain Nausea and vomiting
About 20% of the people who develop symptoms experience jaundice. This can be seen in the yellowing of the skin and eyes. This is a sign of the livers functions being affected as bilirubin begins to build up in the body. Jaundice is a recognised sign of liver problems and may lead to a test for hepatitis C being suggested.The problem for most people is that they are unaware that they have been infected because of the lack of symptoms. As these symptoms are similar to many other short term infections most people are unlikely to seek medical attention.
And even when they do, most doctors will not necessarily suspect or test for hepatitis C.
Symptoms of chronic infection with hepatitis C
Chronic infection doesn’t mean that you have symptoms, chronic means that the infection is ongoing, that you are living with the virus.
The hepatitis C virus is associated with a wide spectrum of liver disease. This ranges from minor inflammation to cirrhosis, and in certain cases liver cancer.
Pains in the upper part of the abdomen
Dry eyes, irritable bowel and irritable bladder
Do not assume that all of your aches and pains are related to hepatitis.
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Acute Hepatitis C Vs Chronic Hepatitis C
Acute and chronic hepatitis C are caused by the same virus.
Acute hepatitis C develops after initial infection with the HCV. This stage can last up to 6 months. Many people have no symptoms during the acute stage and never find out that they have the infection.
According to the CDC, of people with acute hepatitis C develop chronic hepatitis C.
The World Health Organization states that 15 to 45 percent of people with acute hepatitis C spontaneously clear the virus within 6 months. This means that the virus goes away even though it hasnt been treated.
The 55 to 85 percent of people who dont clear the virus will develop a chronic HCV infection.
Chronic hepatitis C can be managed with medications and even cured, but its still a serious condition. According to the CDC,
Are Hepatitis B And C Preventable
Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease.
There is a three-shot vaccination series that is very effective in protecting people against the virus if theyre exposed. In the United States, all newborns are vaccinated for hepatitis B and all pregnant women are screened for hepatitis B during pregnancy. This way, mothers infected with hepatitis B can take protective steps to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to the child.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
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How Do People Get Hepatitis C
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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When To See A Doctor
People should speak with a doctor if they suspect the following:
- They are at risk of contracting HCV.
- They need help with a substance use disorder that could expose them to HCV.
- They have recently undergone potential exposure to HCV.
- They are experiencing any symptoms of an HCV infection
Contracting HCV is preventable in many cases. Preventive measures include:
- not using illicit drugs, especially injectable substances
- taking care when undergoing body piercing or tattooing
- practicing sex with a condom
- not sharing personal items, such as razors or toothbrushes
- wearing gloves if you need to touch or handle another persons blood
When getting a piercing or tattoo, people should seek out a place that has a good reputation. It is vital to ask about the hygiene and sterilization practices at the facility before agreeing to the procedure.
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How Is Hepatitis C Transmitted Or Spread
Hepatitis C is transmitted or spread when the blood from a Hepatitis C-infected person enters the bloodstream of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when screening donated blood and organs for Hepatitis C was not standard in the United States, the disease was commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Hepatitis C may be spread if there is a breakdown in the skin or lining of the mouth. Therefore, sharing of toothbrushes, razor blades and nail clippers is not recommended.
Is Hepatitis C contagious?
Hepatitis C transmission happens only through exposure to an infected persons blood. It is not contagious like the common cold. You cannot get, or give, Hepatitis C by:
What Happens If Someone Has Hepatitis C And Hiv
When someone has both Hepatitis C and HIV, it is often referred to as HCV-HIV co-infection. This means that you have two infections in your body at the same time. HIV, the term for human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS. You can find more detailed information about HIV and AIDS on several Web sties, including:
HCV-HIV co-infection is fairly common. Overall, about one-third of all Americans infected with HIV also have Hepatitis C. And the rate of co-infection is much higher among injection drug users. More than half of people who have HIV and use injection drugs are also infected with Hepatitis C.
People that are co-infected can be effectively treated. However, since there are two infections to deal with managing them is more complicated. There is no cure for HIV, but it can be controlled. Hepatitis C can be treated successfully. Working closely with a doctor who specializes in managing co-infections will give you the best chance for successful treatment.
There are specific risks associated with co-infection. Having HIV, in addition to Hepatitis C, does the following:
- Quickens Hepatitis C disease progression
- Triples the risk for liver disease, liver failure and liver-related death
- Increases the chance that Hepatitis C will be sexually transmitted
- Increases the chance that a mother will infect her unborn child with Hepatitis C
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Can Hepatitis C Be Transmitted Between People
Yes. Hepatitis C can be transmitted to others. The highest risk activities for spreading Hepatitis C include:
- Sharing anything involved with injecting street drugs, from syringes and needles, to tourniquets and pipes
- Sharing non-sterile tattoo or piercing tools and ink
- Getting a blood transfusion in countries that donÃ¢t screen blood for the virus
How Is Hepatitis C Spread
Hepatitis C spreads through contact with the blood of someone who has HCV. This contact may be through
- Sharing drug needles or other drug materials with someone who has HCV. In the United States, this is the most common way that people get hepatitis C.
- Getting an accidental stick with a needle that was used on someone who has HCV. This can happen in health care settings.
- Being tattooed or pierced with tools or inks that were not sterilized after being used on someone who has HCV
- Having contact with the blood or open sores of someone who has HCV
- Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another personÃ¢s blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
- Being born to a mother with HCV
- Having unprotected sex with someone who has HCV
Before 1992, hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Since then, there has been routine testing of the U.S. blood supply for HCV. It is now very rare for someone to get HCV this way.
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What Is Chronic Hepatitis
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. In chronic hepatitis, liver inflammation continues for at least six months. This condition may be mild, causing relatively little damage, or more serious, causing many liver cells to be destroyed. Some cases lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
Chronic hepatitis from infection is most often caused by these viruses:
- Hepatitis B and C. Often the person infected is unaware of any initial symptoms. Or the symptoms were so mild that the person did not seek medical attention. This is especially true for chronic hepatitis C. Over time, perhaps a decade or more, both types may lead to the serious complication of cirrhosis due to ongoing destruction of liver cells and resultant scarring. A minority of patients with cirrhosis develop liver cancer over time.
- Hepatitis D. Hepatitis D infects only patients already infected with hepatitis B, and it generally results in a flare of active hepatitis.
This information helps to determine the best treatment and to assess your risk of developing cirrhosis and liver failure. A liver biopsy also can help to check for other disorders, such as alcoholic liver injury or fatty liver.