Hepatitis C is an infection that attacks the liver, leading to inflammation. This infection is caused by a virus and most people infected do not have any symptoms. In the United States, approximately 36,000 people are infected every year. This infection can lead to chronic liver disease, a serious condition. With so many new cases each year, everyone should ask themselves “how is hepatitis C transmitted?” Knowing can help everyone protect themselves.
Symptoms are rarely present during its earliest stages. When they do begin to occur, they are typically flu-like and mild. These symptoms can include fatigue, nausea, tenderness where the liver is located, fever, joint pain, poor appetite, and muscle pain.
Causes and Transmission
So, how is hepatitis C transmitted? Coming into contact with blood that is contaminated with the HCV virus is how a person contracts this disease. The most common modes of transmission include:
Sexual contact: Though, it is not commonly transmitted this way, it can be.
Shared needles: Sharing needles with someone who is infected is a common mode of transmission..
Childbirth: Though, it is uncommon babies who are born to mothers with this disease may acquire it during childbirth.
Organ transplants and blood transfusions: Prior to 1992, some patients contracted this infection when receiving a transplanted organ or a blood transfusion. Since 1992, improved blood-screening tests have been developed to prevent this infection from being transmitted through organ transplants and blood transfusions.
Certain people are at a higher risk for developing this infection. These include:
- Working in healthcare and being exposed to blood that is infected
- Being born to a mother with this infection
- Having a history of intravenous drug use or currently injecting illicit drugs
- Received hemodialysis treatments for a prolonged period of time
- Are HIV-positive
- Received a clotting factor concentrate prior to 1987
- Got a tattoo of piercing with unsterile equipment in an unclean environment
- Received an organ transplant or blood transfusion prior to 1992
Blood testing is the most common diagnostic technique and it will tell a patient whether or not they have hepatitis C. They can also help to determine viral load and can genotype the virus. Patients who have had the virus for a longer period of time may have to have a sample of their liver tested to determine how severe their liver has been damaged by this infection.
Some patients will require no treatment. Their doctor will simply have them have blood tests every so often to keep an eye on their liver. When treatment is necessary it can range from antiviral medications to a liver transplant depending on the severity of the disease. It is also beneficial for patients to be vaccinated against other types of hepatitis.
WebMD. (2009). Hepatitis C. Retrieved on January 28, 2010 from WebMD: https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097
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