North Atlanta Primary Care

World Hepatitis Day

By Richard Kauffman, M.D. (West Paces Location)

 

 “There are an estimated 3.2 million people in the United States living with hepatitis C. People born between 1945 and 1965 are the largest cohort at risk for the infection and most of us have no idea that we may be infected. If you were born between 1945-1965, ask your doctor about testing for Hepatitis C”. Richard Kauffman, M.D.

 

What is Hepatitis? 

Hepatitis is simply an inflammatory process of the liver cells.  Hepatis or hepatia is the Latin name for liver. In medicine the any organ with the suffix “-itis” infers that the organ is inflamed.  Therefore hepatitis means that the hepatis or liver is inflamed. 

 

What causes Hepatitis?

Inflammation of the liver can be caused by toxic chemicals most such as heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions that can cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.  Today’s focus is on Hepatitis C.

 

What is Hepatitis C?  

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that results from an infection by the Hepatitis C virus. Acute Hepatitis C refers to the first several months after someone is infected. Acute infection can range in severity from a very mild illness with just some body aches and possibly low grade fevers to a serious condition requiring hospitalization. Approximately 20% of people who are infected are able to clear, or get rid of, the virus without treatment within the first 6 months. 

Unfortunately, most people who get infected are not able to clear the Hepatitis C virus and develop a chronic hepatitis. Over time, Hepatitis C can cause serious health problems including liver disease, liver failure, and even liver cancer.

 

 How is Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from an infected person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with Hepatitis C by sharing needles, syringes, or any other equipment to inject drugs. Before widespread screening of the blood supply in 1992, Hepatitis C was also spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. 

Sexual transmission of Hepatitis C is rare but possible. Having a sexually transmitted disease including HIV, sex with multiple partners, or rough sex appears to increase a person’s risk for Hepatitis C by sexual transmission. Hepatitis C can also be spread when getting tattoos and body piercings in unlicensed facilities, informal settings, or with non-sterile instruments. Also, approximately 6% of infants born to infected mothers will get Hepatitis C. Additionally, there are people who have no idea how or when they got infected.

 

Who should get tested for Hepatitis C?   Testing for Hepatitis C is recommended for certain groups, including people who: 

Were born from 1945 – 1965

Received donated blood or organs before 1992

Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago

Have certain medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease and HIV or AIDS

Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease

Have been exposed to blood from a person who has Hepatitis C

Are on hemodialysis

    Are born to a mother with Hepatitis C

 

Can Hepatitis C be treated?

 

Yes. In the past the treatment required daily oral and injected medications that had many adverse side effects. 

Recently new and improved one-pill once a day for 8 or 12 weeks have become available that can cure Hepatitis C for most people.

 

How can Hepatitis C be prevented? 

 

Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C, there are ways to reduce the risk of becoming infected with the Hepatitis C virus.

Avoid sharing or reusing needles, syringes or any other equipment to prepare and inject drugs, steroids, hormones, or other substances.

Do not use personal items that may have come into contact with an infected person’s blood, even in amounts too small to see, such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, combs/hair brushes or glucose monitors.

Do not get tattoos or body piercings from an unlicensed facility or in an informal setting.

 

For more information

Talk to your doctor, call your health department, or visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis 

NOTE: Portions of this document were taken from the CDC.gov website.

 

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