How Is Hepatitis C Transmitted Or Spread
Hepatitis C is transmitted or spread when the blood from a Hepatitis C-infected person enters the bloodstream of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when screening donated blood and organs for Hepatitis C was not standard in the United States, the disease was commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Hepatitis C may be spread if there is a breakdown in the skin or lining of the mouth. Therefore, sharing of toothbrushes, razor blades and nail clippers is not recommended.
Is Hepatitis C contagious?
Hepatitis C transmission happens only through exposure to an infected persons blood. It is not contagious like the common cold. You cannot get, or give, Hepatitis C by:
Who Is At Risk For Hepatitis C
You are more likely to get hepatitis C if you:
- Have injected drugs
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you probably will not have symptoms until it causes complications. This can happen decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
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.
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How Many People Have Hepatitis C
During 2013-2016 it was estimated that about two and half million people were chronically infected with HCV in the United States. The actual number may be as low as 2.0 million or as high as 2.8 million.Globally, hepatitis C is a common blood-borne infection with an estimated 71 million people chronically infected according to the World Health Organization .
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, what’s 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.
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Who Is Most At Risk Of Contracting Hepatitis C
You have a high risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:
- use or have used injection drugs even if it was just once or many years ago
- have received blood or blood products or an organ transplant before July 1990 in Canada
- have been in jail or
- have been injected or scratched during vaccination, surgery, blood transfusion or a religious/ceremonial ritual in regions where hepatitis C is common.
You have a high moderate risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:
- have tattoos or body piercing
- have multiple sexual partners
- have a sexually transmitted infection , including HIV or lymphogranuloma venereum
- have experienced traumatic sex or rough sex or have used sex toys or fisting that can tear body tissue
- have vaginal sex during menstruation
- have received a kidney treatment
- have received an accidental injury from a needle or syringe
- have another infectious disease
- were born to a hepatitis C infected mother or
- have a sexual partner infected with hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is NOT passed from person to person by:
- coughing, sneezing
- breastfeeding unless your nipples are cracked and bleeding or
- oral sex, unless blood is present.
Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms
If you donât get diagnosed and treated, you could have the disease for years and not know it. Doctors call this the chronic form, because it lasts a long time. Some people who’ve had it for a while get scarring of the liver, which is called cirrhosis. or liver cancer.
In addition to the above symptoms, signs that your liver isnât working the way it should include:
- Ascites — fluid buildup in your belly
- Hepatic encephalopathy — confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech
- Jaundice of the skin
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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.
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
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How To Treat Hepatitis C
Lets say you were at the doctor and routine blood work showed elevated liver enzymes. Or maybe you took our advice and got screenedand learned the reason you feel tired all the time isnt because youre getting olderits because you have hepatitis C. Either way, once youve been given a hepatitis C diagnosis, whats next? If this were 20 years ago, the answer would be something like: daily doses of the antiviral drug Interferon, coupled with serious side effects that caused nearly one in two people to drop out of treatment altogether. For all your troubles, you had less than a 50 percent chance of ridding your body of the virus.
Fast forward two decades and hepatitis C is, for all practical purposes, a curable disease. With treatment, almost 100 percent of people can be free of hepatitis C, says Dr. Menon. The exact treatment you receive will depend on factors including the amount of virus in your body , the specific strain of hepatitis C youre dealing with and whether there is any liver damage.
There are close to a dozen direct-acting antiviral medications available to treat specific strains of hepatitis C today, but three options cover all strains of the virus, according to the American Liver Foundation:
Autoimmune Hepatitis Vs Hepatitis C
Having nothing to do with hepatitis A, B or C, autoimmune hepatitis is caused by an autoimmune reaction that tells the body to attack its liver. Although it is a distinct condition from hepatitis C, people sometimes confuse the two as symptoms do overlap . The causes of the diseases are quite different: AIH may have a genetic component, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases meanwhile, hepatitis C is caused by a viral infection with no known genetic component.
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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.
Hepatitis C And Blood Spills
When cleaning and removing blood spills, use standard infection control precautions at all times:
- Cover any cuts or wounds with a waterproof dressing.
- Wear single-use gloves and use paper towel to mop up blood spills.
- Clean the area with warm water and detergent, then rinse and dry.
- Place used gloves and paper towels into a plastic bag, then seal and dispose of them in a rubbish bin.
- Wash your hands in warm, soapy water then dry them thoroughly.
- Put bloodstained tissues, sanitary towels or dressings in a plastic bag before throwing them away.
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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.
Blood Donations Before September 1991
Since September 1991, all blood donated in the UK is checked for the hepatitis C virus.
Theres a small chance you may have been infected with hepatitis C if:
- you received a blood transfusion or blood products before September 1991
- you received an organ transplant before 1992
Before 1992 donated organs were not routinely screened for hepatitis C and there is a very small risk a donated organ from someone with hepatitis C could spread the infection.
There are blood tests to check for hepatitis C infection
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Possible Complications Of Hepatitis C
Theres one main complication of acute hepatitis C: It could become chronic.
- Cirrhosis. With cirrhosis, scar tissue gradually replaces healthy tissue in your liver, blocking blood flow and disrupting liver function. Cirrhosis can eventually lead to liver failure.
- Liver cancer. Having chronic hepatitis C raises your risk for eventually developing liver cancer. If you develop cirrhosis or your liver is very damaged before treatment, youll still have a higher risk for cancer after getting treated.
- Liver failure. It takes a long time for your liver to fail. Liver failure, or end-stage liver disease, happens slowly over months, often years. When your liver becomes unable to function properly, youll need a transplant.
If you believe you contracted the hepatitis C virus, a good next step involves reaching out to a healthcare professional. Getting timely treatment can lower your risk for experiencing serious complications.
The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner your healthcare professional can start a treatment plan.
Currently, the best way to protect yourself from the hepatitis C virus is to avoid using any items that may have come into contact with someone elses blood.
You can do this by:
How Can I Cover Medication Costs
New therapies called direct-acting antivirals are effective and can achieve cures of over 90%. 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.
Talk with your healthcare provider about financial support that may be available.
Below are useful resources when looking for financial assistance:Private health insurance or drug plansIf you have private health insurance or a drug plan at work, you may be able to have the medication paid through your plan. Please consult your private health insurance or drug plan provider to see if your drug is covered.
Publicly funded plansEach provincial and territorial government offers a drug benefit plan for eligible groups. Some are income-based universal programs. Most have specific programs for population groups that may require more enhanced coverage for high drug costs. These groups include seniors, recipients of social assistance, and individuals with diseases or conditions that are associated with high drug costs. For more details, please contact your provincial or territorial health care ministry, or click on the appropriate link below.
Available Patient Assistance Programs for Hepatitis C treatment Holkira Pak Maviret
MerckCare Hepatitis C Program 1 872-5773 Zepatier
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Cost Of Hepatitis C Medicines
The newer direct-acting antiviral medicines for hepatitis C can be costly. Most government and private health insurance prescription drug plans provide some coverage for these medicines. Talk with your doctor about your health insurance coverage for hepatitis C medicines.
Drug companies, nonprofit organizations, and some states offer programs that can help pay for hepatitis C medicines. If you need help paying for medicines, talk with your doctor. Learn more about financial help for hepatitis C medicines.
Liver Assessment Before Treatment
Blood tests can assess the state of your liver. Your healthcare provider can calculate an APRI score, which can rule out the presence of liver damage in many people. These people can be treated immediately by their GPs. Some people will need to be referred to their local hepatitis C service for a fibroscan.
Everyone should have a fibroscan before starting hepatitis C treatment. It’s important to know how much scar tissue or damage is present. If you have mild or moderate scarring in the liver, your GP can supervise your treatment. After successful treatment no further follow-up is needed. Scar tissue in the liver will reduce over time.
If severe scar tissue is present in the liver, you should be cared for by a specialist clinic. After treatment you should stay under specialist follow-up because there is a risk of liver cancer , even many years after the virus has been cured.
What happens after treatment?
Being cured of the hepatitis C virus means having a sustained virological response , which is when the virus can’t be detected three months after treatment.
This is a complete cure from hepatitis C, as being free of the virus three months after treatment means it is unlikely the virus will return. However, you are not immune to hepatitis C and you can be reinfected if you’re exposed to the virus again.
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What Is The Treatment Provided For Hepatitis D
Hepatitis D has no cure. It can only be prevented from being severe and can be managed to control the severity of the disease.
As soon as the detection of hepatitis D is done, you should contact your health care provider immediately to avoid further complications.
Pegylated interferon-alpha is generally recommended for hepatitis D virus infection this medication is taken once daily by mouth.
This treatment may last at least 48 weeks, irrespective of the patients response.
Most of the time, viruses tend to give a low rate of response to the treatment, but the treatment is associated with a lower likelihood of progression of the disease.
More concentration on the need to reduce the burden of chronic hepatitis B is seen.
The treatment with minimal side effects or no side effects is recommended to compensate for conditions like cirrhosis , autoimmune disease , and active psychiatric conditions.
Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
It is very important to know that not everyone with hepatitis C has symptoms. The only way to know if you have hepatitis is by talking to your doctor and getting a blood test.
Many people living with hepatitis C feel well and only have symptoms once the disease has progressed and there is serious liver damage.
If you do not have symptoms this does not mean that the virus isnt causing damage.
When first infected, some people may find:
- their urine becomes dark
- their eyes and skin turn yellow
- they experience a minor flu-like illness.
These symptoms may disappear within a few weeks, but this does not necessarily mean that the infection has been cleared.
Over time, symptoms that may develop include:
- tiredness and fatigue
- flu-like symptoms
- pain in the abdomen where the liver is located
- not feeling hungry and indigestion.
Around 30% of people who have been infected may clear the virus from their blood naturally, with no treatment, within 6 months. These people no longer have the hepatitis C virus and are not infectious, but will always have hepatitis C antibodies in their blood. The presence of hepatitis C antibodies shows that someone has been exposed to the virus, but does not offer any immunity against hepatitis C. People can become reinfected after clearing the virus naturally, or after treatment.
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