Healthy Minute: 'Hepatitis C: A Hidden Disease'
Did you know that there are 5 types of hepatitis viruses? These 5 types are A, B, C, D, and E. Each have different modes of transmission, affect a wide variety of people and have different outcomes.
July 28th is World Hepatitis Day which helps bring awareness to all hepatitis diseases. It is a day to:
- Focus together on this issue.
- Raise common public awareness about various forms of hepatitis, including means of transmission.
- Encourage awareness on hepatitis vaccines.
- Increase knowledge on risk factors, early testing, comprehensive care and treatments.
- Strengthen people by educating them about different measures like prevention, early diagnosis, screening, control and more.
With so much information around all 5 types of hepatitis viruses, let’s just focus on the education around the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
HCV cannot be caught like the common cold. Transmission happens only through exposure to an infected person’s blood. You can’t get or give HCV by kissing, hugging, casual contact, sneezing, coughing, sharing eating utensils, sharing food or drink or breastfeeding. Instead, most people are infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
If you contract HCV there is a chance you might not even show any symptoms. About 70-80% of those with acute HCV infection will not experience any symptoms or show signs of infections. It is common for people to have an HCV infection for 10-15 years with no symptoms.
If you do develop symptoms, usually 2 weeks to 6 months after infection, they often are mild and flu-like: feeling tired, sore muscles and joint pain, fever, nausea or poor appetite, stomach pain, itchy skin, dark urine or jaundice (a yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes).
While the symptoms for HCV are mild, the damages to your health can be serious. According to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, if hepatitis C is not diagnosed and/or treated, over 20-30 years, 15% may develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and 5% may die from the consequences of long term infections.
If you have HCV, it is important you are careful in protecting yourself and others from infection. Because HCV is spread directly through blood, there are specific steps you can take to avoid this contact. The American Liver Foundation shares the following precautions:
- Cover any cuts or blisters to prevent others from coming in contact with your blood.
- Carefully dispose of or thoroughly clean any objects that have come in contact with your blood and disinfect surfaces with household bleach.
- Don’t share personal items such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrush, or anything that may have come in contact with your blood.
- Don’t donate blood, organs or sperm.
- Discontinue to breastfeed if your nipples are cracked and bleeding.
- If you are injecting street drugs, try to get into a program and don’t share needles or other drug equipment.
- Even though there are no vaccines for HCV, it is important to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B to prevent additional liver damage.
So if you have ever injected drugs, received blood or organ products before 1992 or have come in contact with someone else’s blood, do your liver and the rest of your body a favor and get tested for hepatitis C. HCV can be treated and can be removed from the body.
For more information regarding hepatitis C, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services athttps://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/viral-hepatitis/hcv.htm
Submitted by: Anna Treague, RN, Burnett County Public Health
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