What is Hepatitis C?

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis C Virus (HCV) that primarily affects the liver. During the initial infection people often have mild or no symptoms. Occasionally a fever, dark urine, abdominal pain, and yellow tinged skin occurs. The virus persists in the liver in about 75% to 85% of those initially infected. Early on chronic infection typically has no symptoms. Over many years however, it often leads to liver disease and occasionally cirrhosis. In some cases, those with cirrhosis will develop complications such as liver failure, liver cancer, or esophageal and gastric varices.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?
Some people with chronic hepatitis C may complain of abdominal pain, fatigue, itching or nausea.

Chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver resulting in cirrhosis, which is a potentially life threatening condition.

However, many people with chronic hepatitis C  may have no symptoms of liver disease.

How is Hepatitis C infection transmitted?
Hepatitis C is spread primarily through transfusion of blood and blood products.

The infection can also be contracted by usage of unsterile syringe.

Certain specific groups are at a higher risk of being exposed ……such as  long-term kidney dialysis patients, individuals  who regularly seek to get tattoo and body piercing done , health care workers, infants born to HCV-infected mothers and people with high-risk sexual behaviour.

Sharing of razors, tooth brushes, manicure and pedicure equipment can also result in transmission.

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis C?
Currently, Hepatitis C vaccine is not available.

How is the diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C confirmed?
Following a positive hepatitis C antibody test, the presence of Hepatitis C infection is confirmed by hepatitis C viral load testing.

Qualitative or quantitative viral load testing (HCV-RNA by PCR) may be used to detect the presence of Hepatitis C in the blood.

What are treatment options at this time?
Combination therapy with pegylated interferon and ribavirin is the treatment of choice and is FDA-approved.

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