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The liver is one of the most vital organs of the body that helps in detoxification, digestion, coagulation and another critical process in the body. The liver can be infected, damaged or inflamed which can lead to numerous signs and symptoms or discomfort in most people. Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver and can be classified into different subgroups such as A.B, C, D, and E. It is classified based on their etiology, mode of transmission, prevention, and treatment.
It is often caused by bacterial infection, viral infection, chronic alcohol use, toxins or specific medications. It is a prevalent disease in developed countries. Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic depending on its duration, symptoms, and presence of complications. Acute hepatitis C is the type of hepatitis C which occurs during the first 6 months of exposure to the hepatitis C virus. In most cases, it often progresses to chronic hepatitis C. On the other hand; chronic hepatitis C is a type of hepatitis that occurs more than 6 months and leads to different complications such as liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Acute hepatitis is often asymptomatic; hence, about 2,967 cases of acute hepatitis C were reported to CDC by Americans in the year 2016 instead of the almost 41,200 cases estimated by CDC. However, approximately 3.5 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C.
How is Hepatitis C Transmitted?
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that is transmitted by coming in contact with the blood of a hepatitis C infected person. It can be transmitted in various ways where blood contact is possible. In the early 90’s, it was transmitted through blood transfusion and organ transplant. However, with the invention of modern screening techniques, this form of transmission has been eradicated.
In the 21st century, Hepatitis C can be transmitted in various ways such as:
- Vertical Transmission of hepatitis C from mother to child
- Medical practitioners when working with needles in the hospital
- Sharing needle syringes, syringes especially by drug users
- Having sexual contact with someone infected with hepatitis C virus
- Sharing toothbrush, and razors with an infected patient
There is a lot of debate on the transmission of hepatitis C through tattoo or body piercing. There is no sufficient scientific back up to the claim that you can get hepatitis C from tattoo or body piercing. However, poor infection control mechanism during body piercing or tattoo procedure can lead to the transmission of blood-borne diseases. This is a source of concern especially in prison and other non- regulated body piercing or tattoo centers across America.
Hepatitis C virus can also be spread across a household especially when there is direct skin contact with a hepatitis C infected blood. Blood spills from an infected patient especially dried blood should be thoroughly cleaned with a mixture of 1 part of household bleach and 10 parts of water to make the place sterile and hepatitis C virus free.
Hepatitis C virus can survive outside the body at normal temperature for up to 3 weeks. Hepatitis C cannot be spread by hugging, kissing, sharing utensils, holding hands, sneezing, and coughing.
Is Hep C sexually transmitted disease?
Yes, Hepatitis C is a sexually transmitted disease; however, the chance of contracting hepatitis C sexually is very low. The possibilities are higher in people with multiple sexual partners, underlying sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, or frequent rough and unprotected sex. More research is needed to give more clarity on the mechanism of transmission of hepatitis C virus through sexual contact.
Risk Factors for Hepatitis C
There are numerous factors that increase your chance or predispose you to have hepatitis C. The most common risk factors include:
- Frequent Drug users
- Health care workers
- Immunocompromised patient
- Pregnant women with HIV and hepatitis C
- Tattoo or body piercers
- Hemodialysis Patient
What is the difference between hepatitis A B and C?
There is much difference between hepatitis A, B, and C. The most common differences include:
- Mode of Transmission: Hepatitis A is transmitted through the fecal-oral While Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through the blood or coming in contact with infected blood.
- Vaccination: There is no vaccination for hepatitis C, but hepatitis A and B vaccines are given to a different group of people such as travelers, infants, children, and Gays. Hepatitis A vaccine is given specifically to people with chronic liver diseases and clotting factor disorders. Hepatitis B vaccination is explicitly given to geriatrics over 60 years with diabetes, and the dialysis
- Incubation Period: Hepatitis A has a short incubation period of 15-50 (Average of 28 days), whereas, Hepatitis B has an incubation period of 60- 150 days. Hepatitis C has the most extended incubation period within a period of 14 to 180 days
- Chronic Infection: There is no chronic Hepatitis A infection unlike its hepatitis B and C counterparts
- Treatment: There is no treatment option available for hepatitis A, but chronic hepatitis B and C can be treated with antiviral and combination therapy respectively. However, there is no treatment for newly acquired hepatitis A and B.
- Prevention: Hepatitis A can be prevented by observing good sanitary hygiene’s and washing your hands after visiting the toilet, touching diapers or doing anything contaminable. Hepatitis B and C can be prevented by using condoms and performing a safe blood transfusion. However, early vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A.
How long does it take to find out if you have hep C?
It takes 1-2 weeks to detect the presence of hepatitis C virus in the body and about 3-12 weeks for the hepatitis C antibodies to be detectable.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Hep C
There are numerous signs and symptoms presented in hepatitis C patients. The initial sign and symptoms include:
- Muscle ache
- Loss of Appetite
- Easy bruises
- Dry Skin
- Dark Urine
- Light Colored Stool
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Hepatitis C. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c
Hepatitis C. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis-c/
Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, F. (2018). 19 Hepatitis C Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Screening & Medications. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/hepatitis_c/article.htm