How hepatitis C is transmitted
As per the public health department, hepatitis C is not considered transmissible through food. You cannot get hepatitis C from casual contact with someone (e.g., sharing an apartment or car). Studies show that patients with hepatitis C may not be required to be barred from any job including working in the kitchen. However, you should take extra precautions and be extra hygienic, especially in public places and when working in the kitchen. It is usually transmitted by
- Sharing equipment for injecting drugs
- Sharing equipment used to snort or smoke drugs (e.g., bills, straws, pipes)
- Sharing needles or inkwells that are used to make tattoos
- Receiving a transfusion of blood, blood products or organs before 1992 in the US. In some countries, the hepatitis C virus can still be spread through unscreened blood or blood products.
- Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex with someone who has the hepatitis C virus
- Passing the virus from an infected pregnant woman to her baby (less common)
- Sharing personal care items that may come in contact with another person's blood, such as razors or toothbrushes (less common)
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is a chronic illness (which means it does not go away on its own). If you have hepatitis C, you need to be monitored carefully by a doctor because it can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Cirrhosis from hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver failure and someone who has it may need a liver transplant. Most people who are infected with hepatitis C don’t experience any symptoms for years. The symptoms may gradually develop and may include
- Joint and muscle aches
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal tenderness on the area over your liver (the right upper part of your abdomen)
As the disease progresses, hepatitis C can cause liver damage. In many cases, there are no symptoms until liver problems develop. If symptoms of liver problems do appear, they may include
Treatment of hepatitis C
- Although your body’s immune system makes antibodies to the hepatitis C virus (HCV), these antibodies do not protect you. The virus changes so quickly that it evades your body’s defenses. This means that you cannot have lifelong protection from hepatitis C. Also, there currently is no hepatitis C vaccine. If you are treated for HCV and get rid of the virus, you can still be infected again.
- New therapies called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) are pills that act on the virus itself to eradicate it from the body. These are different from the older medicines, such as interferon injections, which work by stimulating an immune response. These new treatments are highly effective and can achieve cure rates of over 90 percent. The new treatment combinations require shorter treatment durations (between eight to 24 weeks), have reduced side effects and appear to be effective at all stages of the disease.
- However, this treatment may be expensive.
- Although liver failure and cancer can be the results of this disease, the physician can identify liver changes long before this happens. Treating hepatitis C drastically reduces these outcomes.
- No alternative therapies, such as herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines and minerals, have been proven safe and effective for the treatment of hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is spread by blood-to-blood contact. If you think you are infected with the hepatitis C virus because of your symptoms and/or previous blood-to-blood contact, you can have yourself tested to verify whether this is the case. Doing this is extremely important to establish the severity and extent of liver inflammation. Without treatment, up to 85 percent of people will have progression. If your doctor diagnoses acute hepatitis C, you may or may not need treatment at that given point. Current guidelines recommend testing again for the virus in six months. If your body has cleared the virus, no further treatment is required. When the virus is still present, treatment at this stage can reduce the risk of developing a severe infection.
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