Hepatitis means liver inflammation. Simple! Apart from microorganisms, other factors such as toxic chemicals can inflame the liver of which Hepatitis C virus is one of the microorganisms that cause a liver to get inflamed. Other known living things that lead to hepatitis include Hepatitis A virus and Hepatitis B virus.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection brought about by a virus called Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). It is a blood-borne virus. The primary route of transmission for the virus is through the use of infected injection, piercing, and tattoo equipment. Other known ways it can be transmitted are:
- Through sexual intercourse with an infected person
- Through blood transfusion with an infected blood
- Through mother-to-child transmission
It is a known fact that people living with HIV are most likely to suffer from hepatitis C infection.
Hepatitis C infection can be categorized into two, depending on the duration of the disease:
- Acute hepatitis C infection, and
- Chronic hepatitis C infection
Acute HCV infection is that which occurs within 6 months after a person’s first exposure to the virus. Most often, it shows no symptoms. It is short-lived and severe. However, when it becomes long-term, it is chronic. According to the World Health Organization, about 75% to 85% of people with HCV infection will develop its chronic form. Untreated chronic hepatitis C, unfortunately, can result in very serious health challenges that could scar or damage the liver, cause liver cancer and lead to death.
In 2016, 2,967 cases of acute hepatitis C were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. An estimate of 41,200 cases of chronic hepatitis C was reported in the same year. There could be more cases since many are not reported, diagnosed, or people could be living with no evident symptoms.
What Factors Put One At Risk Of Getting Infected?
- Sexual contact with a hepatitis C infected person, and with an HIV seropositive person. Engaging in rough sex or having unprotected sex with more than a partner are also risks
- Patronizing unlicensed tattoo shops, getting tattooed in informal places and needle piercings where there are poor-control practices
- Sharing personal items with infected persons such as razor blades, hair clippers, toothbrushes, and sex toys
- Needle-stick injury in a healthcare setting
- Mother-to-child transmission from an infected pregnant woman
- Sharing drug preparation equipment and drug injection equipment, including needles and syringes
- Blood transfusion and organ transplants using poorly-screened blood and blood products
People At Risk Of Contracting Hepatitis C Infection Include:
- People with multiple sexual partners
- People who inject drugs communally
- People who use intranasal drugs
- Persons living with HIV
- Prisoners or those who had served prison terms in the past
- Persons who received infected blood and blood products
- People who were operated on in healthcare facilities that lack adequate control practices
- Babies born to infected mothers
- Persons whose sexual partners are infected
- People who have had tattoos or needle piercings
Symptoms Of HCV
The symptoms, if present, could be
- muscle aches,
- a light-colored stool,
- jaundice (light-yellow colored skin, eyes and dark urine).
Treatment Of HCV Infection
When diagnosed early, hepatitis C infection can be cured effectively. Acute hepatitis C infection can be resolved by the body’s immune response without treatment. However, there is no option for some persons suffering from chronic hepatitis C than to treat it. Its treatment is with antiviral drugs since it is a viral infection. According to the World Health Organization, Sofosbuvir, Daclatasvir and combining Sofosbuvir and Ledipasvir can achieve above a 95% cure rate. These drugs are safer and better tolerated than other antivirals for hepatitis C treatment.
Prevention of Hepatitis C Infection
Since there is no vaccine for hepatitis C infection, the best measure against the infection is prevention. The WHO classifies prevention against HCV infection into primary, secondary, and tertiary preventions especially for health workers.
The WHO recommendation includes:
- Hand-washing and use of gloves before and after any invasive procedure
- Safe handling and proper disposal of sharp objects and already used ones
- Screening donated blood for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, and Syphilis
Secondary And Tertiary Prevention
This should be done for those who are already infected:
- Educating and counseling on care and treatment options
- Giving early and appropriate medical management
- Monitoring regularly for the early diagnosis of chronic liver disease
Diagnosing hepatitis C infection is the best way to avoid problems from the infection, and to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Persons who are in the risk population of hepatitis C viral infection should always get themselves tested with home test kits for hepatitis C, or approach the nearest health center.