Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver. It belongs to a family of liver diseases called hepatitis and is one of the most common types of hepatitis. There is acute hepatitis C, which is a brief illness and chronic hepatitis C, which can persist for years and is often a complication of acute hepatitis C. There were 30,500 reported cases of acute hepatitis C in the United States as of 2014, and medical researchers believe that between 2.7 to 3.9 million people have the chronic form. Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or even liver cancer if left untreated. This article will answer the question, “How is hepatitis C transmitted?”, what warning signs to look for, and how the disease is treated.
How Is Hepatitis C Transmitted?
There are several answers to the question “How is hepatitis C transmitted?” Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease, which means it is transmitted when the blood of a person with the disease enters the body of someone who does not have hepatitis C. In many cases, the disease is spread by people injecting drugs with contaminated needles or sharing other implements that were contaminated with infected blood.
Before 1992, people could get hepatitis C through transplants and blood transfusions. After 1992, donated organs and blood were screened for hepatitis C. Health professionals can also get the disease if they accidentally stuck themselves with a needle that had been used on an infected patient. Babies can also get the disease from their mothers.
Uncommonly, the answer to “How is hepatitis C transmitted?” is through sharing common implements such as toothbrushes or shaving razors or having sexual intercourse with a person who has the virus. Rarely, it is transmitted through tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. This is more likely if the place where this type of body art is practiced is unsanitary and unregulated. People who live together can also get hepatitis C, but this too is unusual unless the members of the household are exposed to the blood of the infected person. Some patients contract hepatitis C through hemodialysis. These are some answers as to how is hepatitis C transmitted.
Hepatitis C is not spread through casual contact, food or water. It is also not spread via the bites of mosquitoes or any other insect. In about 10 percent of cases, how hepatitis C is transmitted can’t be identified.
Signs of Hepatitis C
People can have hepatitis C without symptoms. Because of this, many people with hepatitis C do not know they have the disease. When symptoms of acute hepatitis appear, they often include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. The person also notices that their urine is dark while their stool is clay-colored. They have pain in their abdomen and joints, and they may suffer from jaundice. This is the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
If symptoms appear, they appear after about six to seven weeks, though this can vary. Some people who have symptoms don’t have them until as long as six months after they were exposed. A person who is asymptomatic can still spread the disease to other people.
People who have chronic hepatitis can have it for years without symptoms. By the time they start having complaints, their liver may be scarred. This is a condition called cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis C is often discovered when a person goes to their doctor and has a blood test for other problems.
Treatment of Hepatitis C
The acute form of the disease clears up by itself in about a quarter of the cases. Doctors do not know why this is. In other cases, the patient is given the same kinds of drugs given to people who have chronic hepatitis C. New drugs have fewer or less intense side effects than older drugs used to treat hepatitis C.
Drugs used to treat hepatitis C include:
- Ribavirin, which is used with pegylated interferon or interferon alpha-2a. This is a treatment for adults who haven’t been treated with interferon alpha.
- Daclatasvir is used by patients with a specific type of hepatitis C infection called the HCV genotype 3 infection. These patients already have cirrhosis of the liver.
- Pegylated interferon alpha-2b can be used by children who are three years of age or older and have chronic hepatitis C.
- A combination of the drugs Ombitasvir, Paritaprevir and Ritonavir is used for patients who have the genotype 4 chronic hepatitis C and who have not developed cirrhosis.
Even as they take drugs to treat their hepatitis C, patients still need to be monitored by their doctor. They should not drink alcohol nor take over-the-counter medications without checking with their doctor because both can further damage their liver. Even over-the-counter drugs like Acetaminophen can cause liver damage. Patients might also want to get vaccinations to protect them from hepatitis A and B. As of 2017, there’s no vaccination for hepatitis C, though researchers are looking into it.
Now you know the answer to “How is hepatitis C transmitted?” Hepatitis C is a treatable disease, but there are problems that make the treatment problematic. The first is that people can go for a long time without knowing they are sick, and by the time symptoms appear the damage to the liver can be extensive. The disease is also rather easily transmissible. The hepatitis C virus can not only live in the blood but can live in dried blood and on surfaces contaminated by blood, such as needles. It can live for up to three weeks outside the body.
People who suspect they might have been exposed to hepatitis C should be evaluated for the disease, especially if they had a blood transfusion or received a donated organ before 1992. People who have hepatitis C should not donate their organs, blood or semen. If there’s a person in a household who has the disease, any spilled blood needs to be cleaned thoroughly, and the cleaner should wear rubber gloves. The surface should be swabbed with diluted bleach.