Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that mainly affects the liver and it is caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C virus is mostly transmitted through exposure to infective blood in variety ways, including among injection drug user who share needles, contaminated injections, surgical tools in hospitals or other health settings, transfusions of blood and blood products that have been contaminated with the hepatitis C virus, and also through sex with someone with the virus. Unfortunately no vaccines are available, but certain antivirals medicine can limit the severity of the disease.
Hepatitis C is Usually spread through blood of an infected person, sharing injection drug and razors, poor healthcare practices, unprotected sex, unscreened blood transfusions, body piercing.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C virus causes both acute and chronic infection and symptoms may not appear and the virus may stay in the human body for many months to years.
Chronic hepatitis C is a life-threatening disease of the liver, it can cause liver cirrhosis and liver failure and can be managed with antiviral therapy.
According to WHO, hepatitis C is not spread through breast milk, food, water or by casual contact such as hugging, kissing and sharing food or drinks with an infected person.
Those at risk of hepatitis C include
- Injection drugs users
- People with tattoos or piercings
- Health care workers
- People with sexual partners of someone with hepatitis C
- People with HIV infection
Hepatitis C has about 2 weeks to 6 months incubation period before which it enters a chronic stage, many people infected with the virus are asymptomatic, symptoms may include;
- Loss of appetite
- Dark colored urine
- Weight loss
- Muscle pains
- Enlargement of breast (in men)
- Delayed blood clotting
- Abdominal pain
- Ascites (fluid in the abdomen)
- Changes in mental status
- Loss of consciousness (coma)
There are some blood tests that can be used to diagnose hepatitis C infection. The blood can be tested for hepatitis C antibodies which is a marker for the infection.
Hepatitis C viral load test can also be done to measure the amount of the virus in an infected person.
There are some medications that can be used to treat hepatitis C infection. Interferon have been used to treat hepatitis C although it causes several side effects like anaemia.
Direct-acting agents (DAA), are antiviral drugs that act directly on hepatitis C multiplication. DAA are similar to the treatment used for HIV and are actually more effective when given in combination to treat hepatitis C.
No available vaccines for hepatitis C, according the World Health organization (WHO) intense research is ongoing as scientist aim to provide vaccine against hepatitis C virus.
If you have hepatitis C, your doctor may prescribe some antiviral drugs to help reduce your chances of cirrhosis (scaring of liver tissues) and liver cancer.
The WHO recommends the following to limit hepatitis C infection:
- Regular hand washing before and after using the toilet
- Avoid sharing sharp objects
- Avoid inject drug use
- Testing donor blood for infectious diseases like, hepatitis B and C including HIV
- Use of condoms
- Hepatitis A and B vaccination to reduce your risk of infection and also protect your liver
Health care worker should;
- Wash their hand before and after procedures
- Use gloves and other protective equipment
- Use new needle for every patient
- Handle blood and other laboratory samples with care
WHO – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs164/en/
Medicinenet – https://www.medicinenet.com/hepatitis_c/article.htm
NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Hepatitis/#hepatitis-c