Thursday, May 19, 2022

What Is Hepatitis C And How Do You Get It

What Are The Chances Of Getting Hepatitis C From Sex

Hepatitis C: What Baby Boomers Need to Know

Hepatitis C can spread through sexual intercourse, but it’s rare. And it’s extremely rare among monogamous couples. In fact, the CDC considers the risk of sexual transmission between monogamous couples so low that it doesn’t even recommend using condoms. Also, there’s no evidence that hepatitis C is spread by oral sex. But you should avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers, and sex during menstruation.

If you have HIV or if you have multiple partners, you should take precautions. Using condoms will protect you and your partners.

I Have Hepatitis C And I’m Thinking About Having Children What Should I Know

Hepatitis C does not prevent a man or woman from having children.

The hepatitis C virus infection does not cause infertility in either sex–it does not affect a woman’s ovarian or uterine function, or a man’s sperm production or sperm characteristics.

If you are a woman with hepatitis C, talk to your provider about treatment before pregnancy. Treatment before pregnancy can help reduce the risk of hepatitis C transmission to your baby. If you are already pregnant, treatment will usually take place after pregnancy and you may need to be tested for hepatitis C again prior to starting treatment.

If you are a man with hepatitis C, talk to your provider about being treated prior to conceiving. Although the risk of transmission during sex is low, it is still important to treat hepatitis C for your personal health.

How Do You Treat Hepatitis C

People with acute infection do not always need treatment, because their immune system may clear hepatitis C on its own. If you test positive during the acute stage, your doctor may ask you to come back after a few months to re-test and to see if you need any treatment.

If people develop chronic infection, they will need treatment to help clear the virus. Where available, treatment with drugs called direct-acting antivirals can cure hepatitis in most cases. These are usually taken for 8-12 weeks. Your doctor will also check your liver for any damage.

If youve had hepatitis C in the past, youre not immune to future infections which means you can get it again. You can also still get other types of hepatitis, and having hepatitis C together with another type is more serious.

If youve already had hepatitis C, its advisable to have the vaccination against hepatitis A and B to protect your liver from further damage.

Whether you have symptoms or not, dont have sex until your healthcare professional says you can.

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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.

Who Should Be Vaccinated

Symptoms and warning signs of Hepatitis C

Children

  • All children aged 1223 months
  • All children and adolescents 218 years of age who have not previously received hepatitis A vaccine

People at increased risk for hepatitis A

  • International travelers
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who use or inject drugs
  • People with occupational risk for exposure
  • People who anticipate close personal contact with an international adoptee
  • People experiencing homelessness

People at increased risk for severe disease from hepatitis A infection

  • People with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C
  • People with HIV

Other people recommended for vaccination

  • Pregnant women at risk for hepatitis A or risk for severe outcome from hepatitis A infection

Any person who requests vaccination

There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.

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How Do You Get Hepatitis B

The virus that causes hepatitis B lives in blood, semen, and other fluids in your body. You usually get it by having sex with someone who’s infected.

You also can get it if you:

  • Have direct contact with infected blood or the body fluids of someone who’s got the disease, for instance by using the same razor or toothbrush as someone who has hepatitis B, or touching the open sores of somebody who’s infected.
  • If you’re pregnant and you’ve got hepatitis B, you could give the disease to your unborn child. If you deliver a baby who’s got it, they need to get treatment in the first 12 hours after birth.

If I Get Tested For Hepatitis C And The Result Is Positive Do I Need Any Other Tests To Be Sure

When your provider wants to test you for hepatitis C, the first test you will have is the hepatitis C antibody . If this test is positive, it means you were infected with the hepatitis C virus at some point in the past. But this test alone is not enough. You will still need another test to confirm if you still have the hepatitis C virus in your system. About 1 out of 5 people who get infected with hepatitis C will be able get the rid of the virus on their own, without treatment, very early after their infection. So some people will have a positive antibody test, but a negative HCV RNA .

So, the second test that your provider should request is called hepatitis C virus RNA or HCV RNA test. There are several different tests available to check the HCV RNA. What matters is that if the RNA test is positive, then you do have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. If the RNA test is negative, then you may need to have this test again to be sure. If these RNA tests are all negative, then you no longer have hepatitis C infection and do not have chronic hepatitis C.

If your hepatitis C antibody test is positive, be sure that you get tested for hepatitis C RNA to find out whether the infection has become chronic or whether it has cleared. If the infection has become chronic, there are treatments your provider can prescribe to fight off the hepatitis C virus and keep your liver healthy.

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Differences Between Hepatitis A B And C

To recap, hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, and when its followed by A, B or C, it refers to three different viruses that can cause this inflammation. The symptoms, though, are the same regardless of typemainly jaundice, nausea, fatigue and dark urine. Hepatitis A is easily spread through close human contact, as well as contaminated food and drinking water. Hepatitis B is spread through blood and body fluid, while hepatitis C is spread only through blood. And while A and B can be prevented through vaccination, says Dr. Menon, there is no current vaccination for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C Testing And Diagnosis

Do You Need to Get Screened for Hepatitis C?

Doctors will start by checking your blood for:

Anti-HCV antibodies: These are proteins your body makes when it finds the hep C virus in your blood. They usually show up about 12 weeks after infection.

It usually takes a few days to a week to get results, though a rapid test is available in some places.

The results can be:

  • Nonreactive, or negative:
  • That may mean you donât have hep C.
  • If youâve been exposed in the last 6 months, youâll need to be retested.
  • Reactive, or positive:
  • That means you have hep C antibodies and youâve been infected at some point.
  • Youâll need another test to make sure.
  • If your antibody test is positive, youâll get this test:

    HCV RNA: It measures the number of viral RNA particles in your blood. They usually show up 1-2 weeks after youâre infected.

    • The results can be:
    • Negative: You donât have hep C.
    • Positive: You currently have hep C.

    You might also get:

    Liver function tests: They measure proteins and enzyme levels, which usually rise 7 to 8 weeks after youâre infected. As your liver gets damaged, enzymes leak into your bloodstream. But you can have normal enzyme levels and still have hepatitis C. Learn the reasons why you should get tested for hepatitis C.

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    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
    • Are pregnant
    • Currently inject drugs
    • Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago
    • Have HIV
    • Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
    • Are on hemodialysis

    How Does Hepatitis C Progress

    When someone is first infected with hepatitis C, most likely they have no symptoms and are unaware. Occasionally people experience fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness or sometimes having a yellow color in their skin or eyes. Although having any symptoms at all is rare, if they do occur, they usually go away within a few weeks.

    Around 15-25% of people who are infected will spontaneously fight off the virus on their own and they will not have a chronic hepatitis C infection and no long term damage occurs.

    But around 75-85% of people will develop chronic infection. Most of the time, people with chronic hepatitis C have no symptoms at the time of infection and no symptoms for years or even decades of chronic infection. The virus will be with them until they are successfully treated with hepatitis C medications.

    Around 10-20% of people with chronic infection will slowly have gradual damage in the liver over years and will eventually develop cirrhosis . This can take 20 years or more from the time of the initial infection.

    Cirrhosis is the replacement of liver cells with permanent scar tissue. Cirrhosis can lead to problems such as bleeding from veins in the esophagus, fluid buildup in the belly, and damaged brain function.Approximately 15% of people with cirrhosis will develop liver cancer during their lifetime. Drinking excessively can double the chance of liver cancer in people infected with HCV.

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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.

    Tests To Diagnose Hepatitis C

    How Do I Connect with Real People Living with Hepatitis C?

    How is Hepatitis C diagnosed?

    There are two main blood tests typically used to diagnose Hepatitis C. First, youll have a screening test that shows if youve ever had Hepatitis C at some point in your life. If this test is positive, youll have a second test to see if you have Hepatitis C now. These blood tests are described below:

    Hepatitis C antibody test

    This is the screening test used by doctors to show whether or not you have ever been exposed to Hepatitis C at some time in your life, by detecting antibodies in your blood. Antibodies are substances your body makes to fight off all kinds of infections. If you were ever infected with Hepatitis C, your body would have made antibodies to fight the virus.

    If the test result is:

    • Negative, it means you have not been exposed to Hepatitis C and further testing is usually not needed.
    • Positive, you have had Hepatitis C at some point. However, it does not tell you whether you have it now. Youll need to see your doctor for another test the Hepatitis C RNA test to determine if the virus is still active and present in your blood.

    Hepatitis C RNA Qualitative Test

    This test will determine whether or not you are currently infected with Hepatitis C. It is often called the PCR test because of the process used . It looks for the genetic material of the Hepatitis C virus in your blood.

    If the test result is:

    Hepatitis C RNA Quantitative Test

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    Can I Drink Alcohol Once In A While If I Have Hepatitis C

    Alcohol can clearly contribute to worsening liver disease. You must discuss with your health care provider if any amount of alcohol is safe for you.

    Alcohol can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. If you have any underlying liver condition, such as hepatitis C or hepatitis B or damage from long-term alcohol use, your liver will be more sensitive to alcohol. When you have hepatitis C virus, alcohol on top of the hepatitis C can cause the inflammation and scarring to be worse, and overall damage to the liver may happen much faster when you drink alcohol.

    Here is some helpful information about alcohol and hepatitis:

  • No one knows exactly what amount of alcohol is “safe” when you have hepatitis C. Some small amounts of alcohol may be safe while you have hepatitis C and have mild damage in the liver, but if you have cirrhosis, then no amount of alcohol is safe and you should not drink at all.
  • All forms of alcohol can be damaging. In other words, beer and wine are not “safer” than whiskey.
  • If you have severe scarring , then you should not drink any alcohol at all.
  • If you are awaiting a transplant, you also cannot drink any alcohol at all.
  • If You Have Hepatitis C Should You Get A Flu Shot

    Yes. Having chronic hepatitis C is actually a good reason to get the flu shot. Chronic hepatitis C is a condition that can increase your risk of complications if you do get influenza. That’s why it is recommended for people with hepatitis C, and most chronic liver diseases, to be vaccinated against the flu.

    To stay up to date with your influenza vaccinations, you need to be vaccinated every year–ideally, early in the flu season or as soon as the vaccine becomes available. Typically, flu season is considered to be October to March. It’s best to get vaccinated annually because the vaccine is designed differently each year to target the strains of influenza that are expected to circulate during that particular flu season.

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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.

    What Foods Should I Avoid

    What to know about Hepatitis C

    Everyone should avoid eating a lot of fat, cholesterol, salt and processed sugar, even if their liver is healthy. In addition, those with HCV should limit or avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol will speed up liver damage.

    Eating properly can help decrease some of the symptoms of Hepatitis C, like feeling tired and sick. Drink lots of water for general health benefits. HCV is not a digestive disease diet will not affect the disease. Your provider may put you on a special diet if you have advanced liver disease.

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    Contaminated Needles And Infected Blood

    You can get hepatitis C from sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment during recreational drug use. Banknotes and straws used for snorting may also pass the virus on.

    Being exposed to unsterilised tattoo and body piercing equipment can also pass hepatitis C on. Occasionally, you can get it from sharing a towel, razor blades or a toothbrush if there is infected blood on them.

    Hepatitis C infection is also passed on in healthcare settings, from needle stick injuries or from medical and dental equipment that has not been properly sterilised. In countries where blood products are not routinely screened, you can also get hepatitis C by receiving a transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.

    You can prevent hepatitis C by:

    • never sharing needles and syringes or other items that may be contaminated with infected blood
    • only having tattoos, body piercings or acupuncture in a professional setting, where new, sterile needles are used
    • following the standard infection control precautions, if youre working in a healthcare setting.

    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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