Three FAQs About Hepatitis C

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation of liver. Hepatitis can be caused by various factors such as viruses (various hepatitis viruses such as hepatitis A, B, C, D, E etc.), bacteria, excess alcohol abuse, various toxins, various medications, and certain diseases. Viral hepatitis is a common health problem across the globe.

What is hepatitis C and how it spreads? 

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease caused by infection of HCV (Hepatitis C virus). It spreads mainly by contact with blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can also spread by sexual contact; hence, Hepatitis C is a Sexually Transmitted Disease of STD. Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic. Hepatitis C also spread by sharing needles, as seen among intravenous drug abusers, by organ transplantation, from mother to her fetus and by accidental needle prick injury among healthcare workers. The mode of transmission of Hepatitis C is similar to hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS transmission.

Rarely Hepatitis C can be transmitted by coming in contact with blood of an infected person by sharing razors, tooth brush etc. It is also possible to spread by tattooing and piercing, unless proper care is taken by licensed tattooing and piercing facilities.

How common is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is quite common illness. In the United States 15,000 to 20,000, acute Hepatitis C cases are reported every year. There are also estimated more than 3 million chronic Hepatitis C patients in United States alone. It is estimated that more than 150 million individuals are infected with Hepatitis C worldwide. However, most of the chronic Hepatitis C patients do not know they are harboring the disease, because they are apparently healthy and do not have any symptoms (most of the chronic Hepatitis C patients are asymptomatic). More than 3/4th of the acute Hepatitis C patients develop chronic disease.

Who are at risk of Hepatitis C infection?

  • Intravenous drug abusers (current as well as past abusers), a common mode of transmission
  • Recipients of donated blood, blood products and organs
  • Patients on hemodialysis for kidney failure, who need frequent dialysis
  • Individuals who are fond of piercing and tattooing
  • Healthcare workers
  • Children of mother with Hepatitis C
  • HIV infected persons

 

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