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The most common types of Hepatitis are Hepatitis A, B and C. Unlike Hepatitis A or B, there is no vaccine or known cure for Hepatitis C It remains an enigma, and researchers are desperately trying to come up with a vaccine for the virus. Hepatitis C must be looked at more closely and the Australian Government should be supporting and funding the organisations that are working tirelessly to abolish the lethal disease. There is much of the unknown associated with Hepatitis C, but we know enough tell everyday Australians what they must know about Hepatitis C and why it should be a number one priority of the Australian Government.
Hepatitis C is a contagious disease that attacks the liver and it results from infection with the Hepatitis C Virus. When first infected, victims develop an 'acute 'infection. This can range in severity from minor illness with little symptoms to a serious ailment necessitating hospitalization.
Acute hepatitis C is the short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For unknown reasons, 15%-25% of people clear the virus without treatment.
However, the vast majority aren't this fortunate and 75%-85% of people who become infected with the Hepatitis C virus develop 'chronic' or lifelong infection.
Chronic hepatitis C is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in the bloodstream. Over time, it can easily lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis, liver damage, liver failure, or liver cancer. Research by Hepatitis Australia shows that of the 75% of Hepatitis C patients, about 20% of that number will not experience any noticeable illness or symptoms. After approximately of 15 years, among 40% and 60% of the 75% with chronic Hepatitis C will develop some symptoms and liver damage. After 20 years, between 5 and 10% of people with liver damage will develop cirrhosis. About 10% of the original 75% of chronic Hepatitis C patients, will experience liver failure or develop liver cancer known as hepatocellular carcinoma. It is almost certain that the infected person will then die.
The duration of the Hep C infection is the most likely issue of the risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis. Other factors which affect the progression of liver disease could include:
Age when first infected
Obesity and health
Co-infection with HIV and/or Hepatitis B virus
Hepatitis C is usually spread when the blood from an infected someone who is infected enters the body of someone who isn't infected. Some people are at increased risk for Hepatitis C:
Current injection drug users
Past injection drug users, even if injection has occurred once or many years ago
Recipients of blood, its products and organs before 1992
People infected with HIV
Children born to mothers infected with the virus
Less common risks include:
Sharing such as razors or toothbrushes or nail clippers, that may have touched the blood of a septic person
Tattoos or piercings
It is imperative for you to consult your GP if you fall into any category in the section of this article that explains those who are at a higher risk at contracting the disease
A common question asked to the magazine is if Hepatitis C Virus can be spread through sex. The answer to this question is yes, although scientists don't know how frequently this occurs. Having a sex with multiple partners or sexually transmitted disease or HIV, shows an increase a person's risk for Hepatitis C. There is an increased risk of the disease via sexual transmission among homosexual men.
Many people with Hepatitis C Virus do not have symptoms and are unaware of their infection! Even though a person may have no noticeable symptoms, the virus can still be discovered in the blood, and it doesn't mean that they won't develop symptoms. Even with no symptoms, the virus can still spread to others.
If symptoms occur with acute infection, they can appear anytime between 2 weeks and 6 months after exposure. Symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C can take up to 30 years to show. Damage to the liver can occur silently during this time. When symptoms do appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease. Symptoms of both acute and chronic Hepatitis C can include:
Jaundice (yellow colour in the skin or eyes)
Loss of appetite
Hepatitis C Virus is diagnosed and tested through blood tests. Two of the most common tests are:
The first is Antibody Tests which is the initial test to check for the virus. This antibody test is administered by taking a sample of blood and looking for Hepatitis C antibodies. The test doesn't look for Hepatitis C itself, but for the antibodies (the small proteins in the body that fight the virus. The test shows whether a patient has come into contact with the virus but not if the virus has been cleared
PCR Detection Tests are also known as the RNA or qualitative test. The PCR Detection test is mainly used to double check antibody test results. In Australia people are entitled to one free PCR detection test per year via Medicare if they are antibody positive.
Hepatitis C can be prevented! To decrease the threat of becoming infected with Hepatitis C:
Do not share needles r other equipment to inject cosmetic substances, drugs, or steroids
Avoid sharing personal items such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes or glucose monitors
Avoid getting piercings or tattoos from an unlicensed practice or in an informal site
Avoid unprotected sex with an infected person
Since acute Hepatitis C rarely causes symptoms, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. When a person is diagnosed, doctors often recommend good nutrition, plenty of fluids, rest and antiviral medication. Chronic Hepatitis C patients should be examined closely for signs of liver problems. Even if a person has no symptoms or feel ill liver damage is still possible. Antiviral medication can be used to treat some people with chronic Hepatitis C, although not everyone needs or can benefit from treatment. Hepatitis C is thought of as a "curable" disease, yet this is far from reality for many Hepatitis C patients.