Hepatitis C is a virus that causes severe damage to the liver; it is one of the major causes of a liver transplant. The primary transmission is through direct blood to blood contact, shared drug needles, accidental needle sticks in hospital settings, and a few through unprotected sex(usually multiple partners or gay men). Almost all drug users (over 50%) have been infected with the Hep C Virus. However, the risk from blood transfusions in the US is ZERO.
15% to 30% of people clear the virus from their body naturally without treatment the other 70% to 85% develop chronic infection and related rheumatic diseases from it until they get treatment. Treatment can be a long tiring process but without it, if you are one of the 70 to 85% you cannot get rid of the virus
What is Used to Diagnosis Hep C?
A blood test is normally used to check for unusually high liver enzymes, the number of antibodies in the blood, and a hep C load test, unfortunately, the hep C load test does not show the progression of the virus. Neither the viral load nor enzyme test can show how much damage has been done to the liver either. The best way to check the liver damage is through a biopsy. If the biopsy shows little damage the doctor may recommend monitoring but if the damage is high you will need treatment. If you are or previously been engaged in the risky behavior that can cause you to be infected, you should talk to your doctor to get tested to be sure you are not carrying the virus before your liver becomes seriously damaged.
What Are The Treatments Available?
If caught early it can be cured with interferon but most people don’t show symptoms or think they merely have the flu. When it is not caught early then it is a little bit longer process and the first step is to find out which genotype of Hep C you have. There are four genotypes 1, 2, 3, and 4. Most people in the US have genotype 1. Genotype 1 and 4 are harder to cure than 2 or 3.
The normal treatment is a combination of interferon and ribavirin, the interferon is an injection once a week and the ribavirin is a pill taken twice a day. These drugs have serious side effects like irritability, depression, anemia, neutropenia, or flu-like symptoms. Treatment does not work for all people some can’t tolerate the side effects.
People respond to treatment better if they have
- The genotype 2 or 3
- If the viral load is lower
- Are women
- Have very little liver damage
- Are under 40 years old
- Are white instead of African American
How to Prevent Hep C
While there is a vaccine for Hep A and B there is none for Hep C yet. The best prevention is to be careful not to be exposed to infected blood. Avoiding using razors or sharing needles with infected people greatly lower your risk of contracting the Hep C Virus.