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What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver. In time, it can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
Many people don’t know that they have hepatitis C until they already have some liver damage. This can take many years. Some people who get hepatitis C have it for a short time and then get better. This is called acute hepatitis C. But most people who are infected with the virus go on to develop long-term, or chronic, hepatitis C.
Although hepatitis C can be very serious, most people can manage the disease and lead active, full lives.
What causes hepatitis C infection?
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is spread by contact with an infected person’s blood.
You can get hepatitis C if:
- You share needles and other equipment used to inject illegal drugs. This is the most common way to get hepatitis C in the United States.
- You had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. As of 1992 in the United States, all donated blood and organs are screened for hepatitis C.
- You get a shot with a needle that has infected blood on it. This happens in some developing countries where they use needles more than once when giving shots.
- You get a tattoo or a piercing with a needle that has infected blood on it. This can happen if equipment isn’t cleaned properly after it is used.
In rare cases, a mother with hepatitis C spreads the virus to her baby at birth, or a health care worker is accidentally exposed to blood that is infected with hepatitis C.
The risk of getting hepatitis C through sexual contact is very small. The risk is higher if you have many sex partners.
You cannot get hepatitis C from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drink.
Physiology Effects of Hepatitis C:
Among those infected with HCV, 75 to 85 percent will go on to develop chronic illness. According to CDC figures, of those:
- 60–70 percent will develop chronic liver disease
- 5–20 percent will develop cirrhosis of the liver in 20–30 years
- 1–5 percent will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer
What are the symptoms?
Most people have no symptoms when they are first infected with the hepatitis C virus. If you do develop symptoms, they may include:
- Feeling very tired.
- Joint pain.
- Belly pain.
- Itchy skin.
- Sore muscles.
- Dark urine.
- Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice). Jaundice usually appears only after other symptoms have started to go away.
Most people go on to develop chronic hepatitis C but still don’t have symptoms. This makes it common for people to have hepatitis C for 15 years or longer before it is diagnosed.
How soon after exposure to Hepatitis C do symptoms appear?
If symptoms occur, the average time is 6–7 weeks after exposure, but this can range from 2 weeks to 6 months. However, many people infected with the Hepatitis C virus do not develop symptoms.
Can a person spread Hepatitis C without having symptoms?
Yes, even if a person with Hepatitis C has no symptoms, he or she can still spread the virus to others.
Is it possible to have Hepatitis C and not know it?
Yes, many people who are infected with the Hepatitis C virus do not know they are infected because they do not look or feel sick.
What are the symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C?
Most people with chronic Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. However, if a person has been infected for many years, his or her liver may be damaged. In many cases, there are no symptoms of the disease until liver problems have developed. In persons without symptoms, Hepatitis C is often detected during routine blood tests to measure liver function and liver enzyme (protein produced by the liver) level.
How serious is chronic Hepatitis C?
Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. Approximately 19,000 people die every year from Hepatitis C related liver disease.
What are the long-term effects of Hepatitis C?
Of every 100 people infected with the Hepatitis C virus, about
- 75–85 people will develop chronic Hepatitis C virus infection; of those,
- 60–70 people will go on to develop chronic liver disease
- 5–20 people will go on to develop cirrhosis over a period of 20–30 years
- 1–5 people will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer
How is hepatitis C diagnosed?
Many people find out by accident that they have the virus. They find out when their blood is tested before a blood donation or as part of a routine checkup. Often people with hepatitis C have high levels of liver enzymes in their blood.
If your doctor thinks you may have hepatitis C, he or she will talk to you about having a blood test. If the test shows hepatitis C antibodies, then you have had hepatitis C at some point. A second test can tell if you still have hepatitis C.
When blood tests show that you have hepatitis C, you may need a liver biopsy to see how well your liver is working. During a liver biopsy, a doctor will insert a needle between your ribs camera.gif to collect a small sample of liver tissue to look at under a microscope. You may also have imaging tests, such as a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound, to make sure that you don’t have liver cancer.
Some people prefer to find out on their own if they have been exposed to hepatitis C. You can buy a home test called a Home Access Hepatitis C Check kit at most drugstores. If the test shows that you have been exposed to the virus in the past, be sure to talk to your doctor to find out if you have the virus now.
How is it treated?
You and your doctor need to decide if you should take antiviral medicine to treat hepatitis C. It may not be right for everyone.
If you do take medicine, the best treatment is a combination of medicines that fight infection. An example is sofosbuvir (sovaldi), ledipasvir & sofosbuvir (Harvoni), velpatasvir & sofosbuvir (Epclusa). How well these medicines work depends on how damaged your liver is, how serious your infection is, and what type of hepatitis C you have and the genotype. You can read more about genotypes and what treatment is associated with each genotype.
Taking care of yourself is an important part of the treatment for hepatitis C. Some people with hepatitis C don’t notice a change in the way they feel. Others feel tired, sick, or depressed. You may feel better if you exercise and eat healthy foods. To help prevent further liver damage, avoid alcohol and illegal drugs and certain medicines that can be hard on your liver.
Prevalence of Hepatitis C:
According to the CDC, in 2009, there were about 16,000 reported cases of acute HCV. Approximately 3.2 million people in the United States are living with chronic HCV.
HCV can be found throughout the world. Regions with the highest rates of HCV include Central and East Asia and Northern Africa. According to WHO, types C and B cause chronic illness for hundreds of millions of people around the world.
According to WHO:
- 15–45 percent of people infected with HCV get better within six months without ever receiving treatment.
- Many people are unaware they’re infected.
- 55–85 percent will develop chronic HCV infection.
- For people with chronic HCV infection, the chance of developing cirrhosis of the liver is 15–30 percent within 20 years.
- 130–150 million people around the world are living with chronic HCV.
- Treatment with antiviral medications can cure HCV in many cases, but in some parts of the world, access to the necessary medical care is lacking.
- Antiviral treatment can reduce risk of cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
- Antiviral treatment works for 50–90 percent of people treated.
- 350,000–500,000 people die from HCV-related complications each year.
Cure for Hepatitis C Research Scientist:
Michael Sofia an American physician and research scientist who discovered the cure to hepatitis C. He sold the drug patent to Gilead Sciences.
Gilead Sciences manufactures 3 very important medications to cure hepatitis C and they’re all available in India for the fraction of the price compared to Western countries.
The Three Most Important Hepatitis C Medications:
Sovaldi is made of sofosbuvir 400mg and is once a day tablet taken orally for 84 days or 12 weeks. May also require weight based ribavirin. Successfully treats patients with genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Harvoni is made of ledipasvir 90mg and sofosbuvir 400mg and is once a day tablet taken orally for 84 days or 12 weeks. Successfully treats patients with genotypes 1, 4, 5 & 6.
Epclusa is made of velpatasvir 100mg and sofosbuvir 400mg and is once a day tablet taken orally for 84 days or 12 weeks. May also require weight based ribavirin. Successfully treats patients with genotypes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. The first pan genotype medicine for hepatitis C.
Please note some hepatitis C patients require 24 weeks of treatment, please consult with your physician for more information.
All medicine for hepatitis C treatment is now available from India. Gilead Sciences gave authority, license and patent to Indian pharmaceutical companies to manufacture these life saving medicines.
Please read The New York Times article, click here.
Hepatitis C and Genotypes:
All patients that are infected with hepatitis C have an unique genotype. That genotype determines which hepatitis C medication is required for you to be cured.
To find out which genotype you have, please consult with your physician and request a hepatitis C viral RNA genotype test (LiPA).
There are approximately 7 genotypes of hepatitis C in the human population.
Americans predominantly have genotype 1 and 4
Genotypes by Continent:
- Globally: genotype 1
- Africa: genotypes 1a and 4
- Asia: genotypes 2 and 6
- Australia: genotypes 1 and 3
- Europe: genotypes 1, 3, and 4
- North America: genotypes 1 and 3
- South America: genotypes 1 and 3
Genotype Based Treatments:
Patients with genotypes 1, 4, 5 & 6 you can be successfully treated with the drug Harvoni (ledipasvir 90mg & sofosbuvir 400mg).
Patients with genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4 you can be successfully treated with the drug Sovaldi (sofosbuvir 400mg) and weight based ribavirin.
Patients with genotypes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 you can be successfully treated with Epclusa (velpatasvir 100mg & sofosbuvir 400mg) and sometimes requires weight based ribavirin.
Treatment for hepatitis C is now very simple. You get tested for hepatitis C, if you are positive, then you find out what is your genotype. Based on your genotype the physician can provide you with the right treatment. Its very straightforward.
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