USEFUL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO HEPATITIS C INFECTIONS.

USEFUL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO HEPATITIS C INFECTIONS.

What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can all cause hepatitis. However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common hepatitis viruses are hepatitis A virus, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus.

What is the difference between hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C?
Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are liver infections caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they are spread in different ways and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A is usually a short-term infection. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also begin as short-term infections but in some people, the virus remains in the body, and causes chronic (lifelong) infection. There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B; however, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.


What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis C is often described as “acute,” meaning a new infection or “chronic,” meaning lifelong infection.

Acute hepatitis C occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C can be a short-term illness, but for most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.
Chronic hepatitis C can be a lifelong infection with the hepatitis C virus if left untreated. Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and even death.
What is the likelihood that acute hepatitis C will become chronic?
Approximately 75%–85% of people who become infected with hepatitis C virus will develop a chronic infection.

Is it possible to clear the hepatitis C virus?
Yes, approximately 15%–25% of people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus clear it from their bodies without treatment and do not develop chronic infection. Experts do not fully understand why this happens for some people.

Statistics
How common is acute hepatitis C in the United States?
In 2016, a total of 2,967 cases of acute hepatitis C were reported to CDC. Since many people may not have symptoms or don’t know they are infected, their illness is often not diagnosed or reported and therefore can’t be counted. CDC estimates the actual number of acute hepatitis C cases was almost 41,200 in 2016.

How common is chronic hepatitis C in the United States?
In 2010, there were an estimated 3.5 million people in the United States with chronic hepatitis C.

Transmission / Exposure
How is hepatitis C spread?
Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to prepare or inject drugs. Before 1992, hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. After that, widespread screening of the blood supply in the United States virtually eliminated this source of infection.

People can become infected with the hepatitis C virus during such activities as:

Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to prepare or inject drugs
Needlestick injuries in health care settings
Being born to a mother who has hepatitis C
Less commonly, a person can also get hepatitis C virus through

Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
Having sexual contact with a person infected with the hepatitis C virus
Getting a tattoo or body piercing in an unregulated setting
Hepatitis C virus is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. It is also not spread through food or water.

Can I be re-infected with hepatitis C virus if I have cleared the virus?
Yes. If you have been infected with the hepatitis C virus and cleared the virus, or if you have been successfully treated and cured, you can be re-infected with the hepatitis C virus.

Can hepatitis C virus be spread through sexual contact?
Yes, but the risk of transmission from sexual contact is believed to be low. The risk increases for people who have multiple sex partners, have a sexually transmitted disease, engage in rough sex, or are infected with HIV.





Can you get hepatitis C by getting a tattoo or piercing?
A few major research studies have not shown hepatitis C to be spread through licensed, commercial tattooing facilities. However, transmission of hepatitis C (and other infectious diseases) is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing. Unregulated tattooing and piercing are known to occur in prisons and other informal settings and may put a person at risk of infection.

Can hepatitis C be spread within a household?
Yes, but this does not occur very often. If hepatitis C virus is spread within a household, it is most likely a result of direct, through-the-skin exposure to the blood of an infected household member.

Who is at risk for hepatitis C?
Some people are at increased risk for having hepatitis C, including:

Current or former injection drug users, including those who injected only once many years ago
Those born from 1945 through 1965
Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987, when less advanced methods for manufacturing those products were used
Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants prior to July 1992, before better testing of blood donors became available
Hemodialysis patients
People with known exposures to the hepatitis C virus, such as
Health care workers after needle sticks involving blood from someone who is infected with the hepatitis C virus
Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for the hepatitis C virus
People with HIV infection
Children born to mothers infected with the hepatitis C virus
People who are incarcerated
People who use intranasal drugs
People who received body piercing or tattoos done with non-sterile instruments
What is the risk of a pregnant woman passing hepatitis C to her baby?
About 6 in 100 infants born to mothers with hepatitis C become infected with the hepatitis C virus. However, the risk becomes greater if the mother has both HIV and hepatitis C.

Can a person get hepatitis C virus from a mosquito or other insect bite?
No, the hepatitis C virus has not been shown to be transmitted by mosquitoes or other insects.

Can I donate blood if I have tested positive for hepatitis C?
The American Red Cross does not accept blood donations from anyone with current signs or symptoms of hepatitis, or if you have ever tested positive for hepatitis C.

Symptoms
What are the symptoms of acute hepatitis C?
People with new (acute) hepatitis C virus infection usually do not have symptoms or have mild symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include:

Fever
Fatigue
Dark urine
Clay-colored bowel movements
Abdominal pain
Loss of appetite
Nausea
Vomiting
Joint pain
Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes)
How soon after exposure to hepatitis C virus do symptoms appear?
In those people who develop symptoms from acute infection, the average time from exposure to symptoms ranges from 2 to 12 weeks. However, most people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus do not develop symptoms.

Can a person spread hepatitis C without having symptoms?
Yes, even if a person with hepatitis C has no symptoms, he or she can still spread the hepatitis C virus to others.

Is it possible to have hepatitis C and not know it?
Yes, many people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus do not know they are infected because they do not look or feel sick.

What are the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C?
Most people with chronic hepatitis C virus infection do not have any symptoms or have general, or common symptoms such as chronic fatigue and depression. Many people eventually develop chronic liver disease, which can range from mild to severe, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Chronic liver disease in people with hepatitis C usually happens slowly, without any signs or symptoms, over several decades. Chronic hepatitis C virus infection is often not recognized until people are screened for blood donation or from an abnormal blood test found during a routine examination.

How serious is chronic hepatitis C?
Chronic hepatitis C can be a serious disease resulting in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. It is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. There were 18,153 deaths related to hepatitis C virus reported to CDC in 2016, but this is believed to be an underestimate.

What are the long-term effects of hepatitis C?
Of every 100 people infected with hepatitis C virus:

75-85 will develop chronic infection
10-20 will develop cirrhosis over 20-30 years
Among 100 people with hepatitis C and cirrhosis, with each passing year:

3-6 will develop liver failure
1-5 will develop liver cancer
Developing cirrhosis is more likely if you are male, age 50 years and older, use alcohol, have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis B virus or HIV coinfection, or take immunosuppressive drugs.

Test
If I am pregnant, should I be tested for hepatitis C?
Getting tested for hepatitis C is not part of routine prenatal care. However, if you are a pregnant woman who has risk factors for hepatitis C virus infection, you should speak to your doctor about getting tested.

Should a woman with hepatitis C virus infection avoid breastfeeding?
No. There is no evidence that breastfeeding spreads hepatitis C virus. Precautions may be considered if a mothers with hepatitis C has cracked or bleeding nipples because there is not enough information on the risks of transmission when this happens.

What blood tests are used to test for hepatitis C?
The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested and you may need more than one type of test. A blood test, called a hepatitis C antibody test, can tell if you have ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. Antibodies are chemicals released into the bloodstream when someone gets infected. Another test, called a hepatitis C virus RNA test, can tell if you have a current infection with the hepatitis C virus. RNA is the virus’ genetic material.

What blood tests are used to test for hepatitis C?
The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested and you may need more than one type of test. A blood test, called a hepatitis C antibody test, can tell if you have ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. Antibodies are chemicals released into the bloodstream when someone gets infected. Another test, called a hepatitis C virus RNA test, can tell if you have a current infection with the hepatitis C virus. RNA is the virus’ genetic material.

Treatment
What is the treatment for acute hepatitis C?
There is not a recommended treatment for acute hepatitis C. People with acute hepatitis C virus infection should be followed by a doctor and only considered for treatment if their infection remains and becomes a chronic infection.

What is the treatment for chronic hepatitis C?
There are several medications available to treat chronic hepatitis C. Hepatitis C treatments have gotten much better in recent years. Current treatments usually involve just 8-12 weeks of oral therapy (pills) and cure over 90% of people with few side effects. For a complete list of currently approved FDA treatments for hepatitis C, please visit http://www.hepatitisc.uw.edu/page/treatment/drugs.

Source: cdc.gov

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