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Hepatitis C

Updated: Jan 30


What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an enveloped virus composed of an RNA-positive genome. It contains glycoproteins on its outer surface. (Image Source: ​​KATERYNA KON/ Getty Images)
Hepatitis C is an enveloped virus composed of an RNA-positive genome. It contains glycoproteins on its outer surface. (Image Source: ​​KATERYNA KON/ Getty Images)

Hepatitis C is an infection that targets the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is a different virus from HSV (herpes), HPV, and HIV. It can present itself as a short-term illness, or it can develop into a chronic issue.


It is estimated that over 50,000 people

contract acute hepatitis C in the US every year.


Hepatitis C is treatable.


Those infected with HCV can be cured if they receive treatment early on. Getting tested regularly is vital as early detection can greatly improve treatment outcomes.


How It's Spread


Hepatitis C travels through the blood. Needlestick injuries and drug use provide a gateway for infection and are the leading causes for transmission. If you have experienced either one of these, it is highly recommended to get tested for Hepatitis C regularly. (Image Source: Verywell)
Hepatitis C travels through the blood. Needlestick injuries and drug use provide a gateway for infection and are the leading causes for transmission. If you have experienced either one of these, it is highly recommended to get tested for Hepatitis C regularly. (Image Source: Verywell)

Hepatitis C is spread through infected blood.


It is primarily transmitted via injection drug use with reused needles as well as from mother to baby during childbirth. Although it is not as common, it can also be passed during sex. Ensuring sterilization in procedures that access blood is essential in preventing hepatitis C.


Symptoms


Hepatitis C can present itself through various different symptoms. Dark urine and jaundice are two symptoms that indicate complications with the liver and can lead to a diagnosis. (Image Source: Verywell)
Hepatitis C can present itself through various different symptoms. Dark urine and jaundice are two symptoms that indicate complications with the liver and can lead to a diagnosis. (Image Source: Verywell)

After exposure to Hepatitis C, symptoms can show up anywhere between 2-26 weeks later. Some symptoms that indicate a hepatitis C infection include fever, dark urine, clay-colored stool, and jaundice, a yellow tint to the skin indicating complications with the liver. Chronic infections can lead to additional complications such as chronic liver disease, liver cancer, and cirrhosis.


Getting Tested


Testing is essential in getting an early diagnosis and treating Hepatitis C.


Testing for HCV involves a simple blood test. The CDC recommends “universal hepatitis C screening for all U.S. adults and all pregnant women during every pregnancy .” Current testing can detect the Hepatitis C virus as early as 1-2 weeks after the initial exposure.


Seriously.

If hepatitis C goes untreated, you are more susceptible to developing severe scarring of the liver, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.


Testing Positive


So, your results came back positive.


Don’t worry! If caught early, there are measures that can be taken to mitigate symptoms. In fact, 90% of infected individuals can be cured within 8-12 weeks of treatment.


Limiting alcohol consumption also helps fight the infection as HCV infects the liver, the same organ that breaks down alcohol.


Prevention


Get tested.


Getting tested regularly allows you to treat the infection early on, limiting who you expose to HCV. Additionally, medical evaluations should include screening for chronic liver diseases and HIV. Antivirals may also be prescribed, along with a recommendation to maintain a healthy diet and physical activity.

Use clean needles.


Don't share needles when shooting drugs or getting tattoos or piercings.


 

References


Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for Health Professionals. (2021). https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/hcvfaq.htm#section1


Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP). (2020, August 21). Hepatitis C Basic Information. HHS.gov. https://www.hhs.gov/hepatitis/learn-about-viral-hepatitis/hepatitis-c-basics/index.html.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, July 29). Testing recommendations for hepatitis c virus infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/guidelinesc.htm.

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