Hepatitis C FAQs
Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP on December 7, 2017
Test your Knowledge!
- What kind of disease is caused by hepatitis C?
- Is hepatitis C contagious?
- People who get tattoos or piercings usually contract hepatitis C. True or false?
- In most people, what are symptoms of hepatitis C when initially infected?
- What is cirrhosis?
- Is it possible for the body to rid itself of hepatitis C?
- There is a vaccination against hepatitis C.
- How many Americans are living with chronic hepatitis C?
- Annually, hepatitis C kills more people than HIV. True or false?
- Hepatitis C virus is curable. True or False?
- Improve your Health I.Q. on Hepatitis C
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Q:What kind of disease is caused by hepatitis C?
A:Hepatitis C virus causes an infection of the liver.
The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood-borne virus that causes liver infection. In some cases the infection is brief, but in most cases HCV becomes chronic and can cause serious health problems, liver failure, and even death.
Q:Is hepatitis C contagious?
Hepatitis C infection is extremely contagious. The most common route of infection is sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia. HCV is a blood-borne virus, and contact with an infected person's blood can pass along the disease. Less common ways the virus can be transmitted include sexual contact, or sharing personal hygiene items such as razors with an infected person.
Q:People who get tattoos or piercings usually contract hepatitis C. True or false?
Transmission of Hepatitis C virus is unlikely from tattoos or piercings done at licensed and regulated commercial facilities. There is a higher risk of getting HCV infection from unregulated tattoo parlors or piercing facilities, or prison, where strict hygiene and infection control practices are not followed.
Q:In most people, what are symptoms of hepatitis C when initially infected?
A:Most people (up to 80%) infected with Hepatitis C virus do not have any symptoms in the beginning. When symptoms do occur, they usually happen within 6 to 7 weeks after exposure to the virus. But symptoms can start any time from 2 weeks post-infection up to 6 months.
Early symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Yellow color in the skin or eyes (jaundice)
Q:What is cirrhosis?
A:Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver, due to permanent damage to liver tissue.
This can occur secondary to infection with many infections, including Hepatitis C virus. HCV damages liver cells, causing them to die. This causes extensive scarring in the liver (fibrosis), which can lead to cirrhosis, a condition in which the liver is unable to function normally. If the damage is severe, liver failure can occur.
Q:Is it possible for the body to rid itself of hepatitis C?
A:Up to one-quarter of people infected with Hepatitis C will rid the virus from their bodies without treatment and not experience chronic infection. It is not understood why this occurs in some patients.
HCV patients need to find a doctor who specializes in HCV monitoring and treatment to avoid progression of the illness. Chronic liver disease can cause complex medical complications and it is important to have a specialist monitor the disease and prescribe any needed medical interventions. There are many new and promising medical treatments for Hepatitis C infection.
Q:There is a vaccination against hepatitis C.
A:There is not currently a vaccine available for Hepatitis C.
There are vaccines for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, which are different viruses that can also affect the liver. Discuss the need for Hepatitis A or B vaccination with a doctor.
Q:How many Americans are living with chronic hepatitis C?
A:The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates between 2.4 million and 3.9 million people are living with chronic Hepatitis C infection. An estimated 30,500 acute hepatitis C cases occurred in 2014.
HCV can become chronic in 75% to 85% of cases.
Q:Annually, hepatitis C kills more people than HIV. True or false?
Hepatitis C infection kills more people annually than HIV/AIDS. The reason is that HCV often does not have any symptoms until the disease progresses to the point where treatment can no longer help.
The best way to prevent infection with HCV is to avoid contact with an infected person's blood, do not share needles, and avoid high-risk sexual behaviors (anal sex, multiple partners). If you do engage in high-risk behavior, or think you may have been exposed to Hepatitis C, talk to your doctor and get tested.
Q:Hepatitis C virus is curable. True or False?
A:Hepatitis C infection can be cured in certain cases.
There are new antiviral drugs that can treat the disease and rid the body of HCV in some patients. The choice of medications and regimens varies by the virus genotype and other factors, such as the presence of cirrhosis and the patient's treatment history.
These new drug treatments are used in different combinations depending on the patient's specific situation. Consult with a Hepatitis C treatment specialist to determine the treatment options that are right for you.
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