The hepatitis c virus is the most prevalent cause of liver infection today. The infectious virus was discovered a long time ago and had been a persistent cause of infection, as early as the 70's but the incidence of infection was more prevalent in the 80's. A hepatitis c virus infection left untreated after the initial onset of symptoms is detected, will cause serious and possible life-threatening damage to the liver. Nonetheless, the easy availability of a number of modern treatments today makes this highly infectious virus effectively curable. Giving patients the chance to live normal life expectancies after completing the course of treatment.
Latest statistics on hepatitis infection commissioned by the World Health Organization had correlated a data estimates of around 325M people living with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) or hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection worldwide as of 2017.
According to the WHO Global hepatitis report of 2017, a large percentage of these 325M people have almost nonexistent access to life-saving testing and treatment. Resulting in a high probability of a million of them slowly progressing to develop chronic liver disease, eventually leading to cancer, and death.
Symptoms of hepatitis C
Persons infected with hepatitis c like other types of hepatitis virus infections often don't show any symptoms. Not until the damage to the liver is already extensive. Meaning, many people are not aware they already have hepatitis c infection.
Frequently, when hep c symptoms manifest, they are mistakenly taken for other conditions. These general symptoms include:
- Flu-like symptoms – consists of muscle aches and a fever of high temperature
- Chronic fatigue - feeling tired all the time
- Loss of Appetite
- Achy Stomach (abdominal) pain
- General Malaise - feeling and being sick
The only way to confirm that these symptoms are hep c symptoms is to get tested.
How does a person contact hepatitis c?
Hepatitis c infection is easily transmitted via contact with an infected person's blood.
The usual way the hepatitis c virus is transmitted is through blood-to-blood contact. However, be aware there are other ways hep c virus infection can be spread. These include the following:
- Sharing or reusing unsterilized needles between users of recreational drugs
- Sharing toothbrushes or razors
- Mother to child during pregnancy
- Sexual contact – unprotected sex (very rare)
In the UK and US, most people infected with hepatitis are those who at one or more times in the past or recently shared a syringe with others when injecting recreational drugs. The best estimate from related statistical data is around half of those who inject drugs are positive for hep c infection.
Immediately seek medical advice if you suspect you have persistent hep c symptoms, or you were exposed to one of the risks. A blood test specially formulated to diagnose hepatitis are used to detect positive hepatitis c infection. You can avail of hepatitis c testing from your local sexual health clinic, GP, GUM clinic (genitourinary medicine) or drug treatment service. The earlier you get a diagnosis, the better chance of limiting or preventing damage to your liver, also in preventing the spread of infection to other people.
Modern hep c cures that are highly effective
A course of medications (drugs) is usually prescribed as hep c cure. Usually, these drugs are prescribed to be taken for a duration of several weeks. Prior to the latest set of drugs used as hepatitis c cure, the drugs that were prescribed then were the so-called pegylated interferon (which is a weekly injection) and ribavirin (comes in tablet or capsule forms). The latest form of hep c cure though come as tablet-only treatments.
These new set of hepatitis c cure provide easier to tolerate, more effective and shorter treatment courses. The latest medications include sofosbuvir, daclatasvir, and simeprevir. It was found that 90% of those who used these set of drugs have a higher chance of being cured. Risks of re-infection are still high though, even the most modern hep c cure cannot give you 100% immunity against the virus. Reducing your risks of exposure is the only way to prevent re-infection.
Complications of protracted hepatitis c infection
Hepatitis c infection, if left untreated for many years, can lead you to develop; liver cirrhosis (scarring), which will eventually make the liver sluggish and eventually cause it to stop working altogether. Severe cases of protracted hepatitis c infection will develop life-threatening complications such as liver failure (complete loss of liver functions) or liver cancer.