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Hepatitis C - is an infectious disease of the liver. Hepatitis C, as well as all forms of hepatitis may damage the liver. Of those infected, 55-85 percent will develop chronic infection and 75 percent of those with chronic infection will develop chronic liver disease.
Hepatitis C infection is caused by hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is spread when coming into contact with contaminated blood. Examples hepatitis C virus can be spread include:
shared needles. Hepatitis C can also spread by sharing contaminated needles when injecting drugs.
Birth. A small number of children born to mothers with hepatitis C can acquire the infection during birth.
sexual contact. In rare cases, HCV can be transmitted sexually.
Signs and symptoms
Hepatitis C usually produces no signs or symptoms during the early stages. When signs and symptoms do occur, they are generally mild and flu-like and may include:
Nausea or lack of appetite
Muscle and joint pain
Sensitivity in the liver area
Symptoms of acute hepatitis C if they occur, are typically 6-12 weeks after exposure to the virus.
Despite the lack of apparent symptoms, some people with chronic hepatitis C may develop serious liver disease that can not be seen at first glance.
Health care providers can diagnose hepatitis C by a blood test.
Those diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C may be advised to do a liver biopsy to diagnose chronic liver disease. Unfortunately, to diagnose severe liver disease, liver damage can be considerable and even irreversible. This injury often leads to cirrhosis (end stage liver disease) or liver cancer.
The symptoms of liver damage may not appear for many years. It is therefore important for people at high risk of infection to be tested for hepatitis C, so they can begin treatment as soon as possible. High risk groups include:
People who have had blood transfusions or blood products before routine blood screening.
People on dialysis
People who have had close contact with someone infected with hepatitis C
Workers at the care of people infected
Users current or former injecting drug
People with abnormal liver tests
People who are HIV positive
Two medicines are used to treat hepatitis C: interferon and ribavirin. Most health experts recommend using both drugs together. The response to treatment varies from individual to individual.
About 15 to 25 percent of those infected with hepatitis C will recover completely.
As other hepatitis viruses and alcohol consumption are associated with rapid progression of the disease, health experts recommend people with hepatitis C, avoid alcohol and be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Currently there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, however, you can take precautions to protect against hepatitis C virus and prevent transmission of the virus to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these steps:
Do not share personal care items that might have blood on them, such as razors or toothbrushes.
Avoid injecting drugs.
Never share needles, syringes, water or "works" (equipment for intravenous drug use) your vaccine against hepatitis A and hepatitis B if you are a drug user
Consider the risks from tattoo or piercing. You can get infected if the tools have someone else's blood on them or if the artist or piercer does not comply with good health practices.
Do not donate blood, organs or tissue if you have hepatitis C.