Hepatitis C is a viral infectious disease caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) that mainly attacks the liver and causes damage to the liver cells. It causes severe inflammation of the liver and causes major health problems like liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is further divided into acute and chronic, depending on the severity of the infection.
In acute infection, the symptoms last for 6 months and after the duration of 6 months starts to slow down on its own without any special medication. This is however, recorded in very few cases.
The chronic infection is the result of escalation of acute infection. It affects a majority of people who have a long history of Hepatitis C infection. If not treated in the initial stage of infection, it may further go on to damage the liver.
HCV infection does not show any peculiar symptoms in the acute infection stage and later on when the condition escalates to chronic infection, the liver tissues are already damaged due to continuous inflammations caused by the HC Virus.
A majority of acute Hepatitis C infected patients are at a risk of developing chronic HC causing life threatening liver diseases like liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.
The infection spreads only via blood, that is, when one comes in direct contact with an infected person’s blood. It does not spread through breast feeding, breast milk, food, water and coming in contact with an infected person like hugging, handshakes, etc. It is absolutely safe to share food and drinks with infected person.
There are no effective vaccines available for Hepatitis C as of now, so, in order to prevent the spread of disease it is necessary to follow basic sanitation practices when blood is involved.
How common is Hepatitis C Virus?
According to World Health Organization (WHO), Hepatitis C virus is extremely common globally, with about 58 million people being affected by the chronic form of the disease.
HCV being a blood-borne disease, spreads rapidly when one comes in contact with infected blood through unsafe healthcare practices, unsafe injection use, unchecked blood transfusions, sexual practices and drug abuse.
In India, the prevalence of Hepatitis C infection is around 1%. However, in certain major cities of the country, the infection rate is rising due to injection drug users, people infected with sexually transmitted diseases, unsanitary hospital equipment, etc.
The number of Hepatitis C infection is on the rise with younger generation that give in to drug abuse and use single needle and syringe for injecting it. This is one of the unsafe injection practice that is a contributing factor for spreading of HCV worldwide.
Who is at risk of developing Hepatitis C Virus infection?
Hepatitis C being transmitted through blood, puts almost everyone at risk right from children to adults.
The symptoms of Hepatitis C infection are indistinguishable from other types and takes several weeks to be noticed.
About 30% of individuals infected with the virus recover within 6 months without any specific treatment and the rest 70% may go on to develop chronic Hepatitis C infections.
These individuals will be at a higher risk of contracting extreme liver disorders like cirrhosis.
How does Hepatitis C Virus spread?
Being a blood transmitted virus, it can spread through the following circumstances:
Being born to an Hepatitis C infected mother
Via unchecked blood transfusion
Reusing or poor sterilization of hospital equipment
Unregulated tattoos and piercing instruments
Sharing unsterilized needles, syringes
Inject drugs through single sharing injector
Being in close contact with HIV infected person
Sexual intercourse with multiple people
Close contact with a person with Sexually Transmitted Disease
Sex between men
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C Virus?
Hepatitis C virus infection is generally asymptomatic and hence it cannot be narrowed down to one specific ailment, but the acute infection start to show the following symptoms within 6 months of infection:
Feeling tired all the time
General feeling of being unwell
Joint and muscle pain
Loss of appetite
Pain in the abdomen
Dark yellow urine
Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
What can help against Hepatitis C Virus infection?
Although Hepatitis C does not have any effective vaccine yet, it is possible to try and avoid it by not sharing unsterilized medical equipment, screening the blood samples before transfusion and more.
In conditions like this, it is advised to take proper rest and practice safe and hygienic activities to reduce the infection rate.
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