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.
Can Hepatitis C Spread Through Sex
In some cases, hepatitis C can be transmitted via sexual contactâthough this isnât the most common mode of transmission. As hepatitis C infection involves blood-to-blood contact, this is only possible during intercourse that has an increased potential for exposure to blood. Thus, any sexual activity that increases exposure to blood will naturally increase the risk of HCV transmission.
This most often includes having unprotected intercourse during menstruation and having unprotected anal sex, which is more likely to cause bleeding and microtears. Note that sharing drug injection equipment with your sexual partner presents a much higher risk of transmission than just having unprotected sex.
Transmission rates are higher among partners who have tested positive for HIV. This is because HIV increases the viral load of hepatitis C, which means a greater amount of the virus is present in the infected person.
Other sexual behaviors that can increase your risk of HCV transmission include:
- Sharing sex toys used anally
- Having multiple sex partners
- Rough vaginal sex that could contribute to tearing and bleeding in the penis or vagina
Fingering and oral sex generally carry low risks for transmissionâbut itâs still important to be careful, especially if you or your partner have any open sores.
Evolutionary Analysis Provides Insight Into The Origin And Adaptation Of Hcv
- 1Bioinformatics Laboratory, Scientific Institute IRCCS E.Medea, Bosisio Parini, Italy
- 2Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences, University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
- 3Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
- 4Don C. Gnocchi Foundation Onlus, IRCCS, Milan, Italy
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Tips For Preventing Transmission Through Sex
If youre sexually active with a person who has hepatitis C, there are ways that you can prevent contracting the virus. Likewise, if you have the virus, you can avoid infecting others.
A few steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of sexual transmission include:
- using a condom during every sexual contact, including oral sex
- learning to use all barrier devices correctly to prevent ripping or tearing during intercourse
- resisting engaging in sexual contact when either partner has an open cut or wound in their genitals
- being tested for STIs and asking sexual partners to be tested too
- practicing sexual monogamy
- using extra precautions if youre HIV-positive, as your chance of contracting HCV is much higher if you have HIV
If you have hepatitis C, you should be honest with all sexual partners about your status. This ensures that youre both taking the proper precautions to prevent transmission.
About The Hepatitis C Virus
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that predominantly infects the cells of the liver. This can result in inflammation and significant damage to the liver. It can also affect the livers ability to perform its essential functions. Although it has always been regarded as a liver disease – hepatitis means inflammation of the liver – recent research has shown that the hepatitis C virus affects a number of other areas of the body. These can include the digestive system, the lymphatic system, the immune system and the brain.
Hepatitis C was first discovered in the 1980s when it became apparent that there was a new virus causing liver damage. Before being properly identified in 1989 it was originally known as non-A non-B hepatitis. In 1991 a screening process was developed making it possible to detect HCV in blood samples. As a relatively new disease there are still many aspects of hepatitis C which are yet to be fully understood.
There are an estimated 150 million people worldwide chronically infected with hepatitis C. The level of infection, known as prevalence, varies widely from country to country. In some countries, such as Egypt, it is as high as15%. In the United States it is believed to be 1% and in the UK it is believed to be around 0.5%. The virus can only be transmitted by infected blood.
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How Is Monitoring Done After Treatment For Hepatitis C
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.
Research And Statistics: Who Has Hepatitis C How Many People Have Hepatitis C
Health officials reported 2,967 cases of acute hepatitis C in 2016, but the CDC estimates that the actual number of acute cases is 13.9 times the number of reported cases in any year. The CDC put the real number of acute hepatitis C cases in 2016 at an estimated 41,200.
Despite these estimates, “we really do not know how many people are infected with HCV,” Dr. Branch says, adding that the U.S. estimates come from specific datasets that “do not include prisoners or the homeless and have too small a sample size to yield precise data.”
The Journal of Infectious Diseases
It’s unclear how many people fail to get treatment in time and die from HCV-related issues. According to the CDC, there were 18,153 reported deaths related to HCV, but this is likely an underestimate.
“HCV may be causing 3 to 5 times more deaths than we know,” Branch says. “Better information about the number of HCV-related deaths would help make HCV testing and treatment more of a priority.”
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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.
How Hepatitis A Is Spread
Hepatitis A is most commonly spread when someone eats food or drinks water that contains the hepatitis A virus. This is more likely when travelling outside Canada in areas of the world where hepatitis A is more common. Contaminated sources may include:
- raw or frozen fruits and vegetables
Hepatitis A can also spread:
- from person to person through:
- sexual contact with an infected person
- contact with the feces of an infected person
- blood transfusions or sharing needles for drug use
- changing diapers or cleaning up stool from an infected person
Even if you do not have symptoms, you can still infect others. Infected infants and children are more likely to be without symptoms than infected adults.
You can spread the virus starting 2 weeks before you show any symptoms. You can continue to infect others until about a week after you get jaundice .
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Favorite Hep C Alternative Medicine Resource
Although hep C can be successfully treated with modern medicine, many people turn to dietary supplements with the goal of curing their illness. The most commonly used is silymarin . Although the NCCIH says that no supplement is effective for hep C, the center provides the latest scientific data on a range of products, including probiotics, zinc, licorice root, and colloidal silver.
Awareness Prevention And Early Diagnosis Are Essential
There’s a good reason why hepatitis C is known as a “silent killer.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.2 million Americans live with chronic hepatitis C infection, which is transmitted through infected bodily fluids like blood and semen, and causes inflammation of the liver. Yet up to 75% of people who have hepatitis C aren’t aware they have it.
Most of those living with the virus experience only mild symptoms or don’t have any symptoms at all until they develop serious liver damage or another life-threatening liver disease. Unfortunately, that means they aren’t getting diagnosed and treatment is delayed until the later stages when irreversible liver damage has occurred.
Here, hepatologistNancy Reau, MD, associate director of the Solid Organ Transplant Program at Rush University Medical Center, explains who is at risk for hepatitis C and offers advice to help you protect yourself.
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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:
Staying Healthy With Hepatitis
Not everyone needs treatment right away, but its important to be monitored regularly by an experienced doctor and discuss treatment options of the best way to keep you healthy.
- Get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Eat a healthy & balanced diet. Include a lot of vegetables and fruits try to stay away from too much salt, sugar and fat.
- Exercise regularly. Walking is one of the best exercises, and it helps to make you feel less tired.
- Check with a health professional before taking any prescription pills, supplements, or over-the-counter medications.
- Do not share razors, nail clippers, needles or other items that come in contact with blood with other people.
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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.
Can Hepatitis C Be Treated
Yes, since 2010 enormous progress has been made in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. New therapies called direct-acting antivirals are pills that act on the virus itself to eradicate it from the body, unlike older medicines like interferon injections which work by stimulating an immune response. These new treatments are very effective and can achieve cure rates of over 90%. In most situations now, there is no need for interferon, which was responsible for many of the side effects previously associated with HCV treatment. The new treatment combinations require shorter treatment durations , have reduced side effects and appear to be effective at all stages of the disease.
Because these new therapies are very new, they remain very expensive. As such, drug coverage from both government and private companies may require that your liver disease has progressed to a certain stage before they are willing to cover the cost of these drugs.
Your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist to determine whether you are eligible for treatment. A specialist will help you decide which drug therapy is best for you based on the severity of your liver disease, your virus genotype and whether or not you have been treated in the past.
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How Long Before I Have Symptoms
Many people have mild symptoms or no symptoms, which is why hepatitis is sometimes called a âsilentâ disease.
Hepatitis A. The symptoms usually show up 2 to 6 weeks after the virus enters your body. They usually last for less than 2 months, though sometimes you can be sick for as long as 6 months.
Some warning signs that you may have hepatitis A are:
Hepatitis B. The symptoms are the same as hepatitis A, and you usually get them 3 months after you’re infected. They could show up, though, anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months later.
Sometimes the symptoms are mild and last just a few weeks. For some people, the hep B virus stays in the body and leads to long-term liver problems.
Hepatitis C. The early symptoms are the same as hepatitis A and B, and they usually happen 6 to 7 weeks after the virus gets in your body. But you could notice them anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months later.
For about 25% of people who get hep C, the virus goes away on its own without treatment. In other cases, it sticks around for years. When that happens, your liver might get damaged.
Remember, it’s possible to spread all the types of hepatitis even if you don’t show any signs of being sick.
What To Say To Your Partner
Assure your partner that hep C isnât spread through kissing, touching, or sharing dishes. The chance of getting it through sex is very low — less than 1% per year if you and your partner only have sex with each other. Unlike an STD, hep C can only spread through blood.
âTwo pools of blood have to come together,â Bolter says. âFor most people, if thereâs no blood, thereâs no infection.â
He says your odds are even lower if you have less of the virus is your blood.
âThe amount of virus that a person has — called the viral load — can be really high or really low. The nature of hep C is that it goes up and down. But if someone has a steady low viral load, theyâre less likely to spread the virus. So itâs important to know your status,â he explains.
Your partner may also wonder if you need to change the way you have sex. For some couples, the answer is no. For instance, most people who are married or partnered for a long time donât use condoms. But you may want to discuss safer sex options if you make love during a womanâs period or have rough or anal sex, when tissue is more likely to tear and bleed.
The chance of spreading hep C is higher if you have sex with more than one partner or have an STD or HIV. Using a latex condom every time can help lower the risk.
âThese are very intimate, personal conversations,â Bolter says. âYou canât tell people what to do. You can only suggest.â
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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.
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
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