How Long Do The Hepatitis A And B Vaccines Protect You
During your lifetime, you need:
- One series of the hepatitis A vaccine
- One series of the hepatitis B vaccine
Most people dont need a booster dose of either vaccine. But if you have had dialysis, a medical procedure to clean your blood, or have a weakened immune system, your doctor might recommend additional doses of the hepatitis B vaccine.
Reducing The Risk Of Hepatitis A
Protecting yourself from hepatitis A
The most important action you can take to protect yourself against hepatitis A is to get vaccinated.
Practising strict personal hygiene is also essential to reducing the risk of hepatitis A. Steps you can take include:
- Vaccination may prevent illness if given within 2 weeks of contact with an infectious person.
- Clean bathrooms and toilets often, paying attention to toilet seats, handles, taps and nappy change tables.
- Boil your drinking water if it comes from an untreated source, such as a river.
- If you are travelling overseas, particularly to countries where hepatitis A is widespread, take special care to avoid hepatitis A. Before travelling, talk to your doctor about immunisation for protection.
Protecting others from hepatitis A
If you have hepatitis:
- Wash eating utensils in soapy water, and machine wash linen and towels.
Household contacts and sexual partners of an infectious person may need to be immunised.
All people who have hepatitis A should check with their doctor before returning to work or school.
Protecting yourself from hepatitis A when overseas
Getting Tested Is The Only Way To Know If You Have Hepatitis C
A blood test called a hepatitis C antibody test can tell if you have been infected with the hepatitis C viruseither recently or in the past. If you have a positive antibody test, another blood test is needed to tell if you are still infected or if you were infected in the past and cleared the virus on your own.
- Are 18 years of age and older
- Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Are on hemodialysis
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Treatment Of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is treated with antiviral medications that aim to clear the virus from your body.
New all-tablet treatments have greatly improved the outcomes for people with hepatitis C. These treatments can cure more than 95% of individuals with chronic hepatitis C. There are several new tablets that are used in combination to treat all hepatitis C strains . They are effective for people with no liver damage and those who have more advanced liver damage or cirrhosis.
These new tablet medications are available and subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and can be prescribed by specialists, general practitioners and specialised nurse practitioners.
There are no restrictions on accessing treatment it is available for all adults with a Medicare card. People under 18 are able to access treatment and it is recommended they are referred to a pediatrician experienced in the treatment of hepatitis C.
For more information on the new medications for the treatment of hepatitis C, see our video: Hepatitis C Cure what it means for Victorians.
If your doctor does not know about the new treatments, you can call the LiverLine on for information, and to find a GP who can help you.
Talk with your doctor about treatment options and the potential for interactions with other medications, herbal preparations and other drugs. If you take prescribed medication this will be managed so you can access treatment.
In general, if you have hepatitis C you will feel better if you:
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 dont have symptoms. If they do develop symptoms, these can include:
- flu-like symptoms, tiredness, high temperature and aches and pains
- loss of appetite
- 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
- 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.
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How Does Hepatitis C Affect Your Body
Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver. The hepatitis C virus is most often transmitted through infected blood, such as by sharing needles, says Alexander Kuo, MD, medical director of liver transplantation at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.
Sexual transmission is very uncommon, he says. In healthy adults, youre more likely to catch HCV by sharing a toothbrush or razor than through sexual contact. Using barrier methods during sex decreases the risk further.
People who contract HCV often dont realize they have it. During the early stages of infection, the vast majority of people are symptom free, Dr. Kuo says, so it can be difficult to diagnose before it has already done lasting damage to your liver.
People who may have been exposed children of women who have hepatitis C people who have gotten at-home tattoos and those whove used intravenous drugs should get a onetime blood test to screen for HCV even before they experience symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . People who actively inject drugs should have routine screenings.
Over time, the chronic inflammation from untreated hepatitis C can lead to fibrosis, or scarring, in the liver. Kuo cautions that if this continues for 20 or more years, there is a risk that the liver can become hard from severe fibrosis, resulting in a condition called cirrhosis.
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Hepatitis C Clearance In Women
The rate of clearance of hepatitis C in women who are biologically female can also be different. It is believed that 20% of all hepatitis C infections clear spontaneously without treatment. The rates of clearance, however, differ dramatically between sexes.
Ongoing surveillance data from the United States suggests that 37% of women with acute HCV will experience clearance compared to only 11% of men. The female hormone estrogen is believed to play a central role in this phenomenon.
A 2017 study published in Liver International reported that estrogen directly interferes with the virus’s ability to replicate, mainly in the latter stages of its life cycle when the virus is making “copies” of itself. Without the means to replicate aggressively, the virus is more likely to be eradicated by the immune system.
Studies suggest that estrogen, which persists at higher levels in premenopausal women than men, is able to inhibit HCV replication by as much as 67%. Progesterone and testosterone appear to have no effect on HCV replication.
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Once You Receive A Diagnosis Of Hepatitis C You Can Begin Treatment But Many People Dont Have Symptoms Of Infection Making Diagnosis Difficult Here Are The Signs To Look For
Sarah Bradley is a freelancer writer from Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and three sons. Her reported features and personal essays on parenting and womens health have appeared at On Parenting from The Washington Post, Real Simple, Womens Health, Parents, and O the Oprah Magazine, among others. She is a regular parenting content contributor at Verywell Family and Healthline Parenthood. In her so-called free time, Sarah is an amateur baker, homeschooler, and aspiring novelist.
Hepatitis C, a viral infection spread through blood, causes inflammation in the liver and, in some cases, serious liver disease, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .¹ About 2.4 million people in the U.S. are infected with hepatitis C, the CDC notes, athough the true number is likely higher.
Unlike many other viral infections, hepatitis C can occur without symptoms, with around 50 percent of infected people being unaware that they have the virus.¹
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases , hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne virus in the U.S., and its infection rate has been rising steadily since 2006.² When you combine the widespread nature of hepatitis C with the seriousness of the illness, it becomes even more important to recognize any potential signs and symptoms of infection.
But Even If You’ve Been Cured It Can Have Lifelong Health Implications
“Hepatitis C is a lot more than just a liver disease,” Reau says. “It has been associated with many medical conditions, such as an increased risk of developing diabetes, kidney disease and cancer.”
While curing hepatitis C significantly reduces the risk of serious complications, like liver failure, liver cancer and the need for transplantation, it doesn’t completely eliminate the health risks associated with the disease.
“Hep C is linked to scarring of the liver or cirrhosis and the more scar tissue that develops, the greater the likelihood of complications,” Reau says. “If there is a lot of scarring, you will need lifelong monitoring.”
Reau also recommends leading a healthy lifestyle to help prevent re-infection and further liver damage: Limit alcohol consumption, control your weight, avoid high-risk activities and manage diabetes if you have it.
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How Is Hepatitis B Diagnosed
If you think you may have hepatitis B or you might have been exposed to the virus through sex or drug use, see your doctor or gynecologist to get tested. The blood test also can tell whether someone has an acute infection or a chronic infection. Let the doctor know the best way to reach you confidentially with test results.
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Recent Increases In Hepatitis C Infections
Between 2013 and 2020, the reported number of acute HCV infections more than doubled. High rates of new infections were predominantly among young adults aged 20-29 years and aged 30-39 years. The number of cases continues to increase, in 2020 an estimated 66,700 new HCV infections occurred in the United States. For the most recent surveillance data visit CDC Viral Hepatitis Surveillance.
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Who Gets Viral Hepatitis
Viral hepatitis is common in the United States and affects women and men. Hepatitis B and C are more common than hepatitis A.
- In 2015, hepatitis A affected an estimated 2,500 Americans.6 The percentage of people with hepatitis A has gone down by 95% since the hepatitis A vaccine became available in 1995.
Chronic hepatitis B may affect more than 1 million Americans.6 Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest rates of hepatitis B infection. About 50% of the people living with Hepatitis B are Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.7
Within this high-risk group, hepatitis B is usually passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy. Babies born with hepatitis B are likely to have it their entire lives and are at higher risk of liver damage and liver cancer.
- Hepatitis C is the most common type of viral hepatitis infection in the United States. An estimated 3.5 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C.6 The CDC recommends that everyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested at least once for hepatitis C because it is so common in this age group.8
What Is Viral Hepatitis
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis. However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
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Other Risks Can Include:
- Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another persons blood, such as razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers
- Inoculation practices involving multiple use needles or immunization air guns
- Exposure of broken skin to HCV infected blood
- HIV infected persons
People with current or past risk behaviors should consider HCV testing and consult with a physician. HCV testing is currently not available at most public health clinics in Missouri. For information about HCV testing that is available, call the HCV Program Coordinator at 573-751-6439.
How Does Viral Hepatitis Affect Pregnancy
Hepatitis B and C can cause problems during pregnancy and can be passed to your baby. The risk of passing the virus to your baby is higher with hepatitis B than C.
Research shows that pregnant women with hepatitis B or C may have a higher risk for certain pregnancy complications:2
- Gestational diabetes
- Low-birth-weight baby
- Premature birth . Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death and raises the risk of health and developmental problems at birth and later in life.
Talk to your doctor if you think you may be pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Some antiviral medicines that treat hepatitis C, such as ribavirin, can cause serious birth defects if taken during pregnancy.
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Who Should Get The Hepatitis A Vaccine
The hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses, six to 18 months apart. Two doses are needed for lasting protection.
The vaccine is recommended for:27
- All children, starting at 1 year
- Men who have sex with men
- People who travel or work in a part of the world where hepatitis A is common, such as certain parts of Central or South America, Asia, Africa, and eastern Europe. See the CDCs Travelers Health Information.
- People who use illegal drugs
- People who are treated with clotting factor concentrates, such as people with hemophilia
- People with chronic liver disease
- People who work with hepatitis A in a laboratory or with hepatitis Ainfected primates
- Members of households planning to adopt a child, or care for a newly arriving adopted child, from a country where hepatitis A is common. See the CDCs Travelers Health information page for international adoptions.
Hepatitis C Symptoms & Treatment
Hepatitis C is mainly passed on through using contaminated needles and syringes or sharing other items with infected blood on them. It can also be passed on through unprotected sex, especially when blood is present.
You can prevent hepatitis C by never sharing needles and syringes, practising safer sex, and avoiding unlicensed tattoo parlours and acupuncturists.
Hepatitis C will often not have any noticeable symptoms, but a simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have hepatitis C.
In the early stages, some peoples bodies can clear a hepatitis C infection on their own, others may develop chronic hepatitis C and will need to take antiviral treatment to cure the infection.
Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can lead to permanent liver damage.
Hepatitis C is part of a group of hepatitis viruses that attack the liver.
Some groups are more at risk of getting hepatitis C than others, including people who use drugs, people in prisons, men who have sex with men, health workers and people living with HIV.
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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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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
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Hepatitis C And Injecting Drugs
If you inject drugs, avoid sharing needles, syringes or other equipment such as tourniquets, spoons, swabs or water.
Where possible, always use sterile needles and syringes. These are available free of charge from needle and syringe programs and some pharmacists. To find out where you can obtain free needles, syringes and other injecting equipment, contact DirectLine
Try to wash your hands before and after injecting. If you cant do this, use hand sanitiser or alcohol swabs from a needle and syringe program service.