What Causes Hepatitis C
In this video, we introduce you to what Hepatitis C is, how you can get it, the symptoms, as well as the tests and cures available so you can live hep C free. Theres never been a better time for a C change!
Hep C is an easily cured viral infection. It is passed on when blood from someone who has hep C gets into the bloodstream of someone else. Close to 130,000 Australians still have hep C, many through:
- sharing of equipment for Injecting drugs
- contaminated medical procedures, prior to 1990
- medical procedures 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
- 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
What Foods Should I Avoid
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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Baby Boomers Are Especially Vulnerable
“The hepatitis C virus didn’t have a name or a screening test until in 1989,” Reau says. “That means people born between 1945 and 1965, the group referred to as ‘baby boomers,’ are at highest risk of infection. They grew up before health care facilities started taking standard precautions, like not sharing vials of medicine among patients and requiring staff to wear gloves.”
The CDC reports that baby boomers are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C than other adults, accounting for 75% of those living with the disease.
These are some other reasons you may be at risk:
- You have engaged in high-risk behaviors like IV drug use or unprotected sex
- Your biological mother has/had hepatitis C
- You received blood transfusions, an organ transplant or dialysis before 1989
- You were or are currently incarcerated
Spread Of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact when blood from a person with hepatitis C enters another persons bloodstream.
The most common way people become infected with hepatitis C in Australia is by sharing injecting equipment such as needles, syringes, spoons and tourniquets. It is possible to be infected with hepatitis C after only one risk event.
Hepatitis C may also be spread through:
- tattooing and body piercing with equipment that has not been properly cleaned, disinfected or sterilised such as backyard tattoos’. Registered parlours with appropriate infection control procedures are not a risk
- needlestick injuries in a healthcare setting
- receiving blood transfusions in Australia prior to 1990 before hepatitis C virus testing of blood donations was introduced
- medical procedures, blood transfusions or blood products and mass immunisation programs provided in a country other than Australia
- pregnancy or childbirth there is a 5% chance of a mother with chronic hepatitis C infection passing on the virus to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth.
Breastfeeding is safe, however if nipples are cracked or bleeding cease breastfeeding until they have healed.
Less likely possible routes of transmission of hepatitis C include:
Hepatitis C cannot be transmitted by:
- sharing food, cups or cutlery
- shaking hands or day-to-day physical contact.
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You Might Not Know You Have It
Nearly half of people living with hepatitis C dont know they have it. Thats because most people live with the disease for years without feeling sick, or experiencing only minor symptoms such as fatigue. Frequently, the only indication of hepatitis C is an abnormal liver blood test panel. If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis C, be sure to talk to your physician.
How Is The Virus Spread
Like hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus is spread when blood of an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected, such as through sharing needles or “works” when shooting drugs or occupational needle stick injury. The risk of sexual transmission has not been thoroughly studied but appears to be low in long-term, monogamous relationships. There is no evidence that the hepatitis C virus can be transmitted by casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands, through foods, by sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, or by coughing or sneezing. Hepatitis C is not spread by breastmilk.
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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.
What Does It Mean When Different Types Of Blood Tests For Hepatitis C Give Different Results
The first test your provider probably will perform is called an “antibody” test. A positive result means that you were exposed to the hepatitis C virus at some point in your life.
If the result is positive, your provider will perform a second test called hepatitis C virus RNA to see if the virus is still in your body. If the RNA test result is positive, then you have chronic hepatitis C infection.
So what does it mean if you have a positive result for the first test but a negative result for the second?
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Baby Boomers Are At Higher Risk
If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you might not realize that you are more likely to have hepatitis C. The reason is that intravenous drug use was popular in the 1960s and 1970s, and this practice occurred more commonly in young adults that were born between 1945-1965. Also, blood transfusions in the 1960s and 1970s not infrequently spread hepatitis C since the diagnostic test for hepatitis C was not yet discovered and blood could not be screened. All baby boomers should have a one-time test for hepatitis C to rule out infection.
Hepatitis C is a tricky disease. Its highly contagious, very dangerous and usually exists without presenting any symptoms at all. While hepatitis C can be transmitted in many different ways, its important to do what you can to help prevent contracting or spreading the disease, whenever possible, such as avoiding sharing needles at any time. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have questions, fears or would like to be tested.
What Does High/low Viral Load Mean
Viral load is the amount of virus present in the bloodstream. It is expressed as the amount of viral genetic material per milliliter of blood. The amount of virus does not predict how severe the liver disease is or will become. The level of the viral load does not tell us anything about the risk of liver damage or how sick someone is. In hepatitis C, it matters if virus is present or absent. Some treatment regimens can be shortened if the patient has a low viral load to start with, but most often, treatment regimens are the same for people with high hepatitis C viral loads or low viral loads.
The RNA test is essential for making the diagnosis of hepatitis C infection–having a positive RNA test is the definition of having infection. After the diagnosis is made, the RNA level does not need to be checked over and over unless it is checked during the time that the patient is undergoing treatment. During treatment, regular RNA tests are done to follow the dropping virus level until it reaches an undetectable state. But before treatment and after treatment, repeated RNA testing is not necessary.
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Complications Of Hepatitis C
If the infection is left untreated for many years, some people with hepatitis C will develop scarring of the liver .
Over time, this can cause the liver to stop working properly.
In severe cases, life-threatening problems, such as liver failure, where the liver loses most or all of its functions, or liver cancer, can eventually develop.
Treating hepatitis C as early as possible can help reduce the risk of these problems happening.
Who Should Get Tested For Hepatitis C
People at risk include those who:
- Currently inject drugs
- Injected drugs in the past, even if it was once or many years ago
- Have HIV or AIDS
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Received donated blood or organs before 1992
- Have been exposed to blood on the job through a needlestick or injury with a sharp object
- Are getting long term hemodialysis
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Direct Exposure To Blood
Exposure to large amounts of contaminated blood increases the risk for hepatitis C transmission. If you get a cut and need help tending it, whoever helps you should first put on disposable gloves to prevent exposure in case he or she has a cut. You can also help prevent hepatitis C transmission by covering any cuts or sores with bandages until theyre healed and disposing of used bandages properly.
Uninfected people should take steps to avoid getting someone elses blood in their eyes, nose, and mouth. If an uninfected persons skin is exposed to contaminated blood, wash the area with soap and water immediately. If blood gets in the eyes, rinse them with running water right away and call a doctor to find out about further steps that should be taken.
When cleaning blood from surfaces, Dr. Lee recommends using a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water. Dried blood should also be handled with care because the virus can live for several days outside the body.
The CDC recommends that if youve ever tested positive for hepatitis C, you should abstain from donating blood, organs, or semen.
Take Precautions And Practice Safe Sex
Hepatitis C is rarely transmitted through vaginal intercourse, says Adalja, but you should still take steps to protect yourself and others by wearing condoms.
You may feel that condoms arent necessary if youre in a monogamous heterosexual relationship. Keep in mind, though, that HCV can spread through menstrual flow, so refrain from having sex during this time of the month, says the NHS.
If you or your partner has been infected, wear a condom during anal sex, too, as a precaution. Anal sex can cause small tears around the rectum. This can lead to minor bleeding and spread the virus from person-to-person.
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What Is The Treatment For Hepatitis C
Drugs are licensed for treatment of persons with chronic hepatitis C. Combination drug therapy, using pegylated interferon and ribavirin, can get rid of the virus in up to five out of ten of persons with genotype 1, the most common genotype in the U.S. and eight out of ten persons with genotype 2 or 3. It is important to know that not everyone will need treatment. The decision to treat hepatitis C is complex and is best made by a physician experienced in treating the disease.
Avoid Sharing Personal Care Items
Razors, cuticle scissors, and nail clippers can sometimes cause minor nicks and cuts. If you or someone else has HCV, infected blood can get on these items and spread the virus when shared between people, notes the Hepatitis C Trust.
Be mindful that the virus might also be spread by direct contact with dried contaminated blood, according to the U.K. National Heath Service . So its important to never share razors, nail clippers, scissors, and other personal care items like toothbrushes that may facilitate blood exposure, warns Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Pittsburgh.
If personal care items have been contaminated with infected blood, a bleach-based product is a good way to clean these items, continues Dr. Adalja. And once cleaned, store them separately from personal items used by others.
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Treatments For Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be treated with medicines that stop the virus multiplying inside the body. These usually need to be taken for several weeks.
Until recently, most people would have taken 2 main medicines called pegylated interferon and ribavirin .
Tablet-only treatments are now available.
These new hepatitis C medicines have been found to make treatment more effective, are easier to tolerate, and have shorter treatment courses.
They include sofosbuvir and daclatasvir.
Using the latest medications, more than 90% of people with hepatitis C may be cured.
But it’s important to be aware that you will not be immune to the infection and should take steps to reduce your risk of becoming infected again.
Why Is It So Important To Take Hepatitis C Drugs Correctly
Taking any medicine correctly is extremely important. Taking medicines correctly means:
For hepatitis C drugs, these issues are especially important because, if a medicine is not taken correctly, it may not kill the virus completely. Then, because the virus has “seen” the drug, it learns how to mutate and change in ways that allow it to escape the drug and avoid getting killed off. This is called drug resistance.
Developing drug resistance is a serious issue. It means that the treatment may not work and that the patient may not respond to future treatments.
To prevent drug resistance, it is important to take any medication correctly, but especially DAAs such as Harvoni, Mavyret, Epclusa, and Zepatier.
Resistance can develop quickly. It is very important to take these new antiviral medications according to instructions, on schedule, and not to skip or reduce doses.
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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.
Is It Safe To Take Aspirin Or Tylenol If I Have Hepatitis C
Tylenol is an over-the-counter pain killer. It can be harmful in high doses. If you have hepatitis or liver disease, then you can take Tylenol, but no more than 2,000 mg total over 24 hours. In general, this could be one 500 mg tablet every 6 hours, at the most. Acetaminophen is also included as an ingredient in some opiate medications and in some over-the-counter cold/flu medications, so please be aware of the dose of acetaminophen you may be taking from some combination medicines.
Aspirin, ibuprofen , naproxen , and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , can be harmful if you have cirrhosis. They are safe in hepatitis patients who do not have cirrhosis. But, if a patient has cirrhosis, then NSAIDs cannot be taken at all. If you are not sure, always check with your provider.
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How Do People Get Hepatitis
Hepatitis A can spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as certain types of sexual contact , caring for a sick person, or using drugs with others. there is. Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can even spread the virus before you feel sick.
What is the main cause of hepatitis? The hepatitis virus is the most common cause of hepatitis in the world, but other infectious diseases, toxic substances , and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis. There are five major hepatitis viruses called types A, B, C, D and E.
What are the causes of hepatitis B and C here? Hepatitis B and C are viral-induced liver infections. People living with HIV in the United States are often affected by chronic viral hepatitis because these infections can spread in the same way as HIV.
Is hepatitis treatable with this in mind? Currently, there is no cure for hepatitis A, but it usually improves spontaneously within a few months. You can usually take care of yourself at home.
Therefore, is hepatitis a sexually transmitted disease? Hepatitis B is a virus found in infected blood, semen , and vaginal fluid. This is a sexually transmitted disease that can be transmitted through unprotected sex. It can also be obtained from contaminated needles and syringes.
Which hepatitis does not heal like this? Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by a virus . It can be serious and there is no cure, but the good news is that it can be easily prevented.