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 liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C Virus. When first infected, a person can develop an 'acute 'infection, which can range in severity from a very mild illness with few or no symptoms to a serious condition requiring hospitalization.
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Acute hepatitis C is a 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 liver damage, cirrhosis, 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 an average of 15 years, between 40% and 60% of the 75% with chronic Hepatitis C will experience some symptoms and develop 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 cirrhosis and liver cancer. Other factors which affect the progression of liver disease could include:
Age when first infected
Obesity and health
Co-infection with Hepatitis B virus and/or HIV
So how is Hepatitis C spread? Hepatitis C is usually spread when the blood from an infected person with Hepatitis C Virus enters the body of someone who isn't infected. Some people are at increased risk for Hepatitis C, including
Current injection drug users
Past injection drug users, including those who injected only one time or many years ago
Recipients of donated blood, blood products, and organs (once a common means of transmission)
Haemodialysis patients or persons who spent many years on dialysis for kidney failure
Children born to mothers infected with the Hepatitis C virus
Less common risks include:
Sharing such as razors or toothbrushes or nail clippers, that may have come in contact with the blood of an infected 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 has no symptoms, the virus can still be detected in the blood, and it doesn't mean that they won't develop symptoms. Even if a person with Hepatitis C has no symptoms, he or she can still spread the virus to others.
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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 develop. 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:
Loss of appetite
Jaundice (yellow colour in the skin or eyes)
Hepatitis C Virus is diagnosed and tested through blood tests. Two of the most common tests are:
Antibody Tests-The initial test to check for hep C is usually an antibody test. This is done by taking a sample of your blood and looking for Hepatitis C antibodies. The test does not look for the Hepatitis C virus itself, rather the proteins (called antibodies) that your body produces to fight the virus. This test shows whether you have come into contact with Hepatitis C but does not show whether or not your body has cleared the infection. PCR Detection-Tests Sometimes called the qualitative or RNA test, the PCR viral 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 reduce the risk of becoming infected with the Hepatitis C Virus:
Do not share needles r other equipment to inject cosmetic substances, drugs, or steroids
Do not use personal items that may have come into contact with an infected person's blood, such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes or glucose monitors
Do not get tattoos or piercings from an unlicensed facility or in an informal setting
Avoid unprotected sex with an infected person
Since acute Hepatitis C rarely causes symptoms, it often goes undiagnosed an untreated. When a person is diagnosed, doctors often recommend good nutrition, plenty of fluids, rest and antiviral medication. People with chronic Hepatitis C should be monitored closely for signs of liver problems. Even though a person may not have symptoms or feel sick, damage to the liver can still occur. 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.