Hepatitis C (HCV)
Hepatitis C (HCV) - Hep C
Hepatitis C (HCV) is quickly outstripping Hepatitis B as the most common form of chronic hepatitis in the world.
Hepatitis C, unlike other forms of hepatitis, leads to chronic infection in over 80% of cases and chronic liver disease in over 70% of infected people.
Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood or other body fluids. Hep C appears to be particularly hardy and can be transmitted indirectly, for example, a razor or a toothbrush may contain minute, but infective quantities of the virus.
Transmission of Hep C is often as a result of drug use, and may account for over 50% of cases; from 'shooting up' using shared needles, or surprisingly, through the sharing of cocaine-snorting straws via the transfer of blood from tiny hemorrhages caused by snorting the drug.
Poor hygiene practices at acupuncturists, tattoo or body / ear-piercing establishments have all contributed to the spread of the virus.
Transmission of hepatitis C through sexual contact is rare, though there is strong evidence that sexual contact is one mode of transmission. Therefore, barrier contraception (using condoms) is to be encouraged.
Although hepatitis C was suspected to exist, it was only as late as 1989 that a reliable blood test was developed and therefore anyone who received a blood transfusion prior to 1993 may have contracted the virus. The rate of infection via blood transfusion during this period is estimated to be around 10%.
Groups who remain at risk of contracting the virus are those whose occupation or lifestyle brings them into regular contact with the blood or body fluids of infected people.
Hepatitis C Symptoms
It should be noted that 80% of people who become infected with hepatitis C (hep C) will show no symptoms until the later stages of chronic liver disease have developed, which may take many years.
Symptoms of hepatitis C may include any or all of the following:
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- dark urine
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eye)
Hepatitis C (HCV) Treatment
There is no vaccination available for hepatitis C.
Treatment for chronic hepatitis C is currently interferon and ribavirin.