Hepatitis C Awareness

Hepatitis C Awareness

hepatitis_c_awarenessDear Dr. Levister: Is hepatitis C spread through casual contact? What should I know about this disease? V.R. 

Dear V.R.: Hepatitis C isn’t spread through food, water, or by casual contact. This infection of the liver is caused by the hepatitis C virus. About 3.2 million people in the U.S. have the disease. But it causes few symptoms, so most of them don’t know.

There are many forms of the hepatitis C virus. The most common in the U.S. is type 1. None is more serious than any other, but they respond differently to treatment.

Many people with Hepatitis have no symptoms. But you could notice these: Jaundice (a condition that causes yellow eyes and skin, as well as dark urine), stomach pain, loss of appetite, nausea and fatigue. The virus spreads through the blood or body fluids of an infected person.

You can catch it from: Sharing drugs and needles; having sex, especially if you have an STD, an HIV infection, several partners, or have rough sex; being stuck by infected needles; Birth — a mother can pass it to a child.

The CDC recommends you get tested for the disease if you: Received blood from a donor who had the disease. Have ever injected drugs. Had a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before July 1992. Received a blood product used to treat clotting problems before 1987. Were born between 1945 and 1965. Have been on long-term kidney dialysis. Have HIV. Were born to a mother with hepatitis C.

You can get a blood test to see if you have the hepatitis C virus. About 75% to 85% of people who have it develop a long-term infection called chronic hepatitis C. It can lead to conditions like liver cancer and cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. This is one of the top reasons people get liver transplants.

Hepatitis C treatments have changed a lot in recent years. The latest is a once-daily pill called Harvoni that cures the disease in most people in 8-12 weeks. It combines two drugs: sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) and ledipasvir. In clinical trials, the most common side effects were fatigue and headache. However, the medicine is expensive.

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