What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver. It is the most common blood borne pathogen seen in the United States and currently infects 1 out of every 50 Americans. Currently there is NO vaccine to prevent the Hepatitis C infection.
Who is at risk for getting Hepatitis C?
Anyone can become infected with Hepatitis C, if their blood comes in contact with the infected blood of another person.
How is Hepatitis C transmitted?
In 1992 a blood test that can detect the Hepatitis C virus was developed and since then, the United States has had a clean blood supply. Currently within the United states 86% of all new cases of Hepatitis C are caused by behavioral choices; 68% by the use of illegal injectable drugs and 18% by high risk sexual activity. In the United States we see up to 5% of the babies born to Hepatitis C positive mothers being born infected with the Hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis C is NOT transmitted by casual contact, household contact, or in food.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?
While some people do develop mild flu like symptoms during the first few weeks of the infection, according to the CDC, 80% of the people infected with the hepatitis C virus have no symptoms. The liver is a non-complaining organ, and doesn't say "ouch I hurt" like the heart or stomach. In fact, most people are infected 20-30 years before they are diagnosed with the infection.
When is a person at risk of transmitting Hepatitis C?
As long as a person has the Hepatitis C virus in their blood, they can transmit the virus to another person's blood. Remember, it takes blood to blood contact to transmit the virus.
What is the treatment of Hepatitis C?
Treatment for the Hepatitis C virus consists of 48 weeks of combination therapy of Peg-layted Interferon and Ribavirin. In the United States this treatment is effective in eradicating the virus in 50% of those undergoing treatment.
Is there a test for this virus?
A simple blood test will tell if a person is infected with the Hepatitis C virus. However, the CDC recommends that a person either has a risk factor present or a blood exposure to an infected person's blood prior to being tested for Hepatitis C.
Defined CDC risk factors for Hepatitis C include:
• Receiving any form of blood products prior to 1992
• Any use of illegal injectable drugs
• Being born to a Hepatitis C infected mother
• Long term hemodialysis patients
• Occupational blood exposures
• Sharing personnel household items with blood on them with a HCV infected person
• High risk sexual activity
• Tattoos or body piercings from a non-sterile setting
How can the spread of Hepatitis C be prevented?
Never touch anything that has anyone else's blood on it: Diabetic testing supplies, Insulin needles, razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, or other personal items that can have blood on them.