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Hepatitis C is a human viral infection that mainly attacks the liver. It is caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV) that is primarily transmitted with blood. It is dominantly asymptomatic with most of its known symptoms occurring after the first six months of infection. The disease affects humans of all ages but the body has the ability to get rid of the virus by itself; a phenomenon called clearance. However, clearance varies widely between people; with older people being less likely to clear the virus and male patients having a lower chance of clearance compared to female patients. However, clearance can only happen within the first six months after infection but after that, medical help is needed to get rid of the virus.
is the virus that causes hepatitis C. This virus actively attacks the human liver especially in the chronic stage of infection. The virus replicates rapidly in the hepatocytes of the human liver. The virus is primarily blood-borne.
Unlike other types of hepatitis; A and B, there is no vaccine that prevents the human body from acquiring the HCV.
The simple answer is YES; hepatitis C is contagious. There are many ways through which hepatitis C can be transferred from one person to another. These are as follows.
1) From mother to child during child birth. According to recent studies, infected mothers rarely infect their children with the hepatitis C virus. However, there have been cases where infected mothers and poor child delivery practices led to the HCV virus being transmitted to newborns during delivery. Hepatitis C can be life threatening for very young children and medical attention should be sought as soon as possible in case of infection.
2) Through sexual intercourse with an infected person. Sexual intercourse is the main method though which many diseases are spread. However, for hepatitis C, it is a little different; it is not given that sexual intercourse with an infected person will lead to transmission of this virus. However, there are some sexual practices that increase the chances of transmission of the virus through sexual intercourse, such as use of shared sex toys, anal sex and having sexual intercourse during menstruation.
3) Through direct blood contact. This happens when the blood of an infected person comes into contact with the blood of healthy person. This can happen in many settings, for example, during an accident or with a blood transfusion. This is why blood requires thorough screening before it is given to a patient in need of transfusion. However, it should be noted that during the first few months after infection, the hepatitis C virus may not be detected by traditional methods of blood screening. According to recent researches, direct blood contact remains the main way in which hepatitis C is spread.
4) Organ transplants. Organ transplants, just like blood transfusion can transmit the HCV virus very easily. People infected with hepatitis C should not be allowed to donate organs as they may transfer the virus into the bodies of healthy recipients.
5) Sharing of personal items. Personal items like toothbrushes and razor blades are the leading carriers of many diseases. Anyone who uses the toothbrush or a towel from an infected person increases the risk of contracting the disease. However, it should be noted that not all personal effects can transmit the disease. For an object to transmit the hepatitis C virus, it must come into contact with body fluids of an infected person, especially blood. This is what makes towels and toothbrushes potential carriers of the diseases.
6) Sharing of needles during drug use or body modifications. Piercing objects come into direct contact with blood and could lead to transmission of very many diseases. Avoid sharing needles and earrings even with people who seem healthy since they could be infected with hepatitis C but not show any symptoms. Nurses and doctors are also at great risk of getting infected with the disease if they mishandle needles that have been used on infected persons.
This is the phase of the hepatitis C infection that usually lasts for the first six months. It is primarily asymptomatic and any symptoms that appear in this phase are comparatively mild in most of the cases. No life threatening symptoms appear in this stage and many people never seek medical attention due to the triviality of the symptoms.
During this stage, the body has the ability to fight it off and get rid of the virus without any medical intervention. However, this ability of clearance decreases as we age and very old patients may not have the ability to clear the disease. In addition, men have been found to have a lower ability to fight off the disease compared to females.
People with other primary infections like HIV/AIDS stand almost a zero percent chance of being able to get rid of this virus. This is because their immune systems are weakened and thus lose the fight against the hepatitis virus. If the body is not able to get rid of the virus during this stage, then the virus develops into the chronic stage of the disease which poses life threatening effects.
Although it is mostly asymptomatic, some mild symptoms may appear during the acute stage. These include:
This is phase of the disease that takes place after the first six months of infection. This is the stage in which the virus actively attacks the liver causing massive and sometimes irreparable damage.
Finding a reason to go and get tested for chronic hepatitis C is very difficult since most of the victims do not show any signs and symptoms. However, there are people who suffer severe symptoms of hepatitis C. Here are some of the most common symptoms of chronic hepatitis C infection:
Even after decades of research, medical researchers still have not come up with a cure for hepatitis C that would work in 100% of cases. It is important to note that there are drugs that are recommended for people with hepatitis C as means of supporting therapy and many people mistake these drugs for cures. These drugs are meant to handle the effects of the hepatitis C virus but they are not able to get rid of the virus completely.
However, recent research has shown that even after the chronic stage of hepatitis C has kicked in, more than 80 % of victims who are given the drugs no longer suffer from the effects of hepatitis. In addition, most of the patients experience long-term results that may potentially last for life (since the most effective hep C medication has only been introduced in 2013, there’s still no sufficient data regarding the duration of its effect).
The standard treatment for hepatitis C involves administering a combination of antiviral medications. It is recommended that the medicine be prescribed by a doctor so that they can later check the progress of treatment. After 12-24 weeks of taking the medicine, the doctor measures the level of the hepatitis C virus and is there is still a considerable amount of HCV in your bloodstream, the doctor may recommend some additional doses or start you on another course of treatment.
With the influx of medicine companies all over, there have been a rapid increase in the number of drugs meant to treat hepatitis, and some of them have detailed explanations of how they cure the disease completely. However, there are only three recommended drugs used for hepatitis treatment. They are:
These are the only recommended drugs although you may find many other over-the-counter drugs claiming to treat hepatitis C. Although the abovementioned drugs have been proven to be successful, you should remember that they also come with side effects of their own. These side effects are listed below, but they may vary from person to person.
Although hepatitis C is a very serious disease, it’s no longer considered to be incurable. If you or someone you know have hepatitis C, there’s a very high chance of getting rid of it completely with the combination therapy involving the use of sofosbuvir, ribavirin and peginterferon. Remember that it’s important to start treatment as soon as hepatitis C is diagnosed in order to avoid serious consequences, even if the symptoms of the disease are not that obvious and if it doesn’t cause too much discomfort.