Questions For Your Doctor
When you visit the doctor, you may want to ask questions to get the information you need to manage your hepatitis C. If you can, have a family member or friend take notes. You might ask:
What The Cdc Recommends
Were you born between 1945 and 1965? If so, then youre a member of the Hepatitis C generation. The CDC recently recommended that all people born between during this time have a 1-time screening test for Hepatitis C. We now have new drugs that can treat and cure Hepatitis C so you should go get tested today.
The life you save may be your own! Please contact your local healthcare provider.
Causes Of Hepatitis C
You can become infected with hepatitis C if you come into contact with the blood of an infected person.
Other bodily fluids can also contain the virus, but blood contains the highest level of it. Just a small trace of blood can cause an infection. At room temperature, it’s thought the virus may be able survive outside the body in patches of dried blood on surfaces for up to several weeks.
The main ways you can become infected with the hepatitis C virus are described below.
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Preventing The Spread Of Hepatitis C
There is no vaccine available to prevent a person from being infected with hepatitis C. Recommended behaviours to prevent the spread of the virus include:
- Always use sterile injecting equipment. This can be accessed from your local needle and syringe program service.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, nail files or nail scissors, which can draw blood.
- If you are involved in body piercing, tattooing, electrolysis or acupuncture, always ensure that any instrument that pierces the skin is either single use or has been cleaned, disinfected and sterilised since it was last used.
- If you are a healthcare worker, follow standard precautions at all times.
- Wherever possible, wear single-use gloves if you give someone first aid or clean up blood or body fluids.
- Although hepatitis C is not generally considered to be a sexually transmissible infection in Australia, you may wish to consider safe sex practices if blood is going to be present, or if your partner has HIV infection. You may wish to further discuss this issue and personal risks with your doctor.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Chronic Hepatitis B
About 1 in 20 people who get hepatitis B as adults become carriers, which means they have a chronic hepatitis B infection. Carriers are more likely to pass hepatitis B to other people. Most carriers are contagious meaning they can spread hepatitis B for the rest of their lives.
Hepatitis B infections that last a long time may lead to serious liver diseases like cirrhosis and liver cancer. About 1 in 5 people with chronic hepatitis B die from it. There are medicines that can help treat chronic hepatitis B infections.
Most babies who get hepatitis B develop chronic infection, unless they get treated right away. But treatments almost always work if your baby gets them quickly. Thats why its important for pregnant people to get tested for hepatitis B.
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What Impact Does Hep C Have On Pregnancy And Expectant Mothers
There is a 4-7% chance of transmission from HCV-positive mother to child during childbirth. Women who have been exposed or are at high risk of HCV should be tested and treated during pregnancy. There are no prophylactic measures that can be taken to prevent transmission during birth. If a child is suspected of being infected they should be tested after 18 months .
HCV is transmitted through blood only, so infected mothers are able to breastfeed if they choose. These women should use caution if they have dry or cracked nipples that could expose the infant to contaminated blood. Read more about STDs and pregnancy here.
Who Is At Risk For Hcv
- Recipients of clotting factors made before 1987
- Recipients of blood and/or solid organs donated before 1992
- Persons with undiagnosed liver problems
- Infants born to HCV-infected mothers
- Persons who have sex with multiple partners
- Persons who have sex with an HCV-infected steady partner
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How Will I Know If My Treatment Works
The goal of treatment is to reduce the amount of the hepatitis C virus in your blood to levels that cant be detected after 24 weeks of therapy. The amount of the virus in your blood is called your viral load. At the end of your treatment, your doctor will need to measure your viral load and find out how healthy your liver is. He or she may repeat many of the same tests that were done when you were first diagnosed with hepatitis C.
If your blood has so few copies of the virus that tests cant measure them, the virus is said to be undetectable. If it stays undetectable for at least 6 months after your treatment is finished, you have what is called a sustained virologic response . People who have an SVR have a good chance of avoiding serious liver problems in the future.
Treatment may not reduce your viral load. You may not have an SVR after treatment. If thats true, your doctor will discuss other treatment options with you. For example, if 1 round of treatment did not decrease your viral load enough, your doctor may recommend a second round. Even if treatment doesnt keep you from having active liver disease, lowering your viral load and controlling chronic liver inflammation may help you feel better for a longer time.
What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Hcv
- 80 percent of patients are asymptomatic.
- Symptoms may include fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, jaundice, or dark urine.
- Jaundice occurs in 25 percent of patients liver function test results generally are less pronounced than with HBV infection.
- Acute disease tends to be mild and insidious in onset.
- Average incubation period is 6-7 weeks .
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What Is Hepatitis C And How Do You Get It Expert Answers To Your Questions About This Curable Condition
If youve heard of hepatitis C , you might think of actress Pamela Anderson, who was diagnosed with the disease in the early 2000s. Or maybe you associate it with people who have piercings and tattooscommon culprits of hepatitis C transmission. Mostly, though, you probably dont think of it at all, because its the type of disease that flies under the radar. So it might surprise you to learn that hepatitis C is on the rise in the U.S., after decades of decline. So, whats going on?
Weve been seeing cases increase for the last seven or eight years, says Douglas T. Dieterich, MD, director of the Institute for Liver Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital and professor in the division of liver diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. In fact, the rate of new hepatitis C cases more than quadrupled over the last decade, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Dr. Dieterich attributes this increase to the growth in intravenous drug use among certain groups. Once people get addicted to oxycontin and cant get prescriptions anymore, they go out looking for other ways to satisfy their addiction, including heroin or other needle drugs, he says.
The scary news: Untreated, hepatitis C can be fatal. The really good news, though, is that if the disease is detected and treated, you can be cured of hepatitis C. Everybody should be screened at least once in their lifetime for hepatitis C, says Dr. Dieterich.
Genotypes Of Hepatitis C
According to modern concepts of virologists, hepatitis C has six genotypes. The term genotype means the differences of the virus at the molecular level.
Most scientists recognize the existence of six genotypes. As a scientific hypothesis, the presence of three more genotypes is considered.
Since the genetic differences of the virus are indifferent to the average reader, let us dwell on the description of the six main genotypes.
Knowledge of the genotypes of their quasi-types is important for infectious disease doctors with:
choice of methods of treatment of the disease
determining the epidemic situation of hepatitis C.
Genotypes have a specific territorial distribution. In relation to the same genotypes of different territories, the same principles of treatment apply.
Genotypes are denoted by Arabic numerals , and quasitypes or subtypes are denoted by Latin letters and so on:
First genotype. It is ubiquitous, three quasi-types have been identified. If this genotype is confirmed, long-term treatment should be expected, for one year or more.
Second genotype. The ubiquitous distribution of the genotype and four quasitypes are characteristic. The duration of treatment is usually no more than six months.
Fourth genotype. Widespread in the Middle East and Central Africa. In the conditions of Russia it is little studied. Ten quasitypes have been identified.
Sixth genotype. Registered in Asian countries, has one quasi-type. In the conditions of Russia it is little studied.
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How Serious Is It
- People can be sick for a few weeks to a few months
- Most recover with no lasting liver damage
- Although very rare, death can occur
- 15%25% of chronically infected people develop chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer
- More than 50% of people who get infected with the hepatitis C virus develop a chronic infection
- 5%-25% of people with chronic hepatitis C develop cirrhosis over 1020 years
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.
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Treatment And Medication For Hepatitis C
If you have acute hepatitis C, there is no recommended treatment. If your hepatitis C turns into a chronic hepatitis C infection, there are several medications available.
Interferon, peginterferon, and ribavirin used to be the main treatments for hepatitis C. They can have side effects like fatigue, flu-like symptoms, anemia, skin rash, mild anxiety, depression, nausea, and diarrhea.
Now youâre more likely to get one of these medications:
Find out more on treatment options for hepatitis C.
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.
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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.
Stages Of Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus affects people in different ways and has several stages:
- Incubation period. This is the time between first exposure to the start of the disease. It can last anywhere from 14 to 80 days, but the average is 45
- Acute hepatitis C. This is a short-term illness that lasts for the first 6 months after the virus enters your body. After that, some people who have it will get rid of, or clear, the virus on their own.
- Chronic hepatitis C. For most people who get hepatitis C — up to 85% — the illness moves into a long-lasting stage . This is called a chronic hepatitis C infection and can lead to serious health problems like liver cancer or cirrhosis.
- Cirrhosis. This disease leads to inflammation that, over time, replaces your healthy liver cells with scar tissue. It usually takes about 20 to 30 years for this to happen, though it can be faster if you drink alcohol or have HIV.
- Liver cancer. Cirrhosis makes liver cancer more likely. Your doctor will make sure you get regular tests because there are usually no symptoms in the early stages.
Learn more about the stages and progression of hepatitis C.
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Genotyping And Serotyping Of Hcv
Hepatitis C genotyping is helpful in defining the epidemiology of hepatitis C, but on an individual patient basis, genotyping is crucial in regard to treatment recommendations and duration. Genotyping is based on sequence analysis by sequencing or reverse hybridization. Although viral load can vary within a 0.5- to 1-log range, HCV genotype does not change during the course of infection. In case of suspected superinfection, another genotype might rarely be detected. For reliable genotyping, 5URT alone is insufficient, including parts of the core sequence enhance genotyping reliability. Sequencing of NS5b is the gold standard.
Serotyping is the only other option to test for the type of HCV in cases of remote infection. This, however, is relevant for epidemiologic studies only and is not used clinically.
Andrea D. Branch, in, 2004
Reactive Or Positive Hepatitis C Antibody Test
- A reactive or positive antibody test means that Hepatitis C antibodies were found in the blood and a person has been infected with the Hepatitis C virus at some point in time.
- Once people have been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true even if they have cleared the Hepatitis C virus.
- A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean that you have Hepatitis C. A person will need an additional, follow-up test.
Persons for Whom HCV Testing Is Recommended
- Adults born from 1945 through 1965 should be tested once
- Ever injected drugs, including those who injected once or a few times many years ago
- Have certain medical conditions, including persons:
- who received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987
- who were ever on long-term hemodialysis
- with persistently abnormal alanine aminotransferase levels
- who have HIV infection
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Who Is At Risk
Your risk of infection with HCV is increased if you:
- Had tattoos or body piercings in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment
- Worked in a place where you came in contact with infected blood or needles, for example, healthcare workers
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Received a blood product for clotting problems made before 1987
- Needed to have your blood filtered by a machine for a long period of time because your kidneys werent working
- Were born to a mother with HCV
- Had unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Have or had a sexually transmitted disease