Hepatitis C is a blood borne pathogen that attacks and injures the liver. An estimated 270-300 million people worldwide are infected with Hepatitis C; about 4.1 million of those cases are in America, and 3.2 million of those are chronically infected. In 2006 there were 586 new hepatitis C cases reported in Wyoming. Chronic infection is now the most common reason for liver transplants.
Once infection occurs, it can begin to scar the liver. In some cases, this leads to liver failure or other complications including liver cancer or life-threatening esophageal or gastric problems. Transmission occurs when blood from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person. Unprotected sexual activity is one means of infection, but other causes include: injection drug use; blood transfusions or organ transplantations; inadequately or improperly sterilized medical or dental equipment; improperly sterilized tattooing or piercing equipment; shared personal care items; accidental exposure to another person's blood; an from an infected mother to her unborn child.
The best way to prevent hepatitis C exposure is to avoid exposure to infected blood; however, there may be no visible signs that a person is infected, so general precautions should be observed: avoid contact with anything that may have an infected person's blood on it (razors, scissors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, etc.); use a lubricated condom during any sexual activity; do not inject drugs, and never share drug paraphernalia; notify all medical personnel (doctors and dentists) if you are infected; follow routine barrier precautions if you are in the health or public safety sector; and get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B.
Symptoms: Hepatitis C ˆ Back To Top
Between 60% to 70% of people infected with hepatitis C show no symptoms during the first six months. Those who do experience symptoms might notice nonspecific symptoms such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, jaundice, itching, fatigue, mild nausea or vomiting. Once hepatitis C infection reaches chronic status, symptoms can include fluid in the abdomen, bruising and bleeding, and cognitive impairment.
Treatment: Hepatitis C ˆ Back To Top
There are vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but as of yet, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C (HCV). Treatment includes a combination of antiviral drugs for 24-48 weeks but is only effective for approximately half of the people who are infected; treatment is much more successful before the infection reaches chronic status.