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Hepatitis C

A Viral Time Bomb

What is Hepatitis C?

One of the hepatitis viruses that affects the liver is the hepatitis C virus, generally known as hepatitis C or HCV. It's a viral illness that can inflame the liver and cause severe damage. The virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, which can range in severity from a mild illness to a serious, life-long condition involving liver cirrhosis and cancer. Chronic hepatitis C is the name for the hepatitis C virus infection that lasts for a long time. Whereas, acute hepatitis C lasts for a short period of time.


How Deadly this Disease can be?

Hepatitis C is a widespread virus that many people carry without realizing it. Some infected people are able to fight off the virus on their own and it rarely poses any threat to life. However chronic hepatitis C like cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated can be dangerous. Additional risks include liver failure and a decline in liver function.

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What are the Symptoms of the Disease?

Due to the lack of obvious symptoms, acute hepatitis C is rarely detected. Researchers globally are however trying to find out solutions for the detection of the disease. For instance, medical researchers are utilizing antiretroviral protease inhibitors for research and development of drugs for treatment of hepatitis disease. However, acute hepatitis C patients typically do not show any type of symptoms. Symptoms often appear two to twelve weeks after exposure. Acute hepatitis C symptoms include:

  • Joint Pain
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Dark Urine
  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Clay-Colored Stool

Chronic hepatitis C either has no symptoms or has nonspecific symptoms like depression or chronic fatigue. Only normal blood tests or screenings for blood donations can reveal whether a person has the disease. Those detected with the disease, however, are treated with direct-acting antiviral medicines.

Advanced Hepatitis C Symptoms

  • Kidney Failure
  • Easy Bleeding and Bruising
  • Intense Itching
  • Muscle Loss
  • DProblems with Memory and Concentration
  • Spider-like veins on the skin
  • Bleeding in the Lower Esophagus Which Causes Vomiting
  • Weight Loss

What is the Main Cause of the Disease?

There is a potential that another person will contract the disease if they come into touch with someone who has the hepatitis C virus in their blood or bodily fluids.

  • Sharing needles and injecting drugs
  • Being injected by contaminated needles
  • Having a piercing or tattoo performed using unclean equipment
  • A mother can pass on birth to her child
  • Through sexual activities and if a person has had several relationships and HIV or another STD
  • Sharing toiletries including razor blades, nail clippers, and toothbrushes

Hepatitis C cannot be acquired through:

  • Hugging
  • Holding hands
  • Kissing
  • Breastfeeding
  • Casual contact
  • Sharing eating utensils
  • Sharing food or drink
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Mosquito bites

How Can One Prevent Hepatitis C?

  • Only get acupuncture, tattoos, or body piercings by a professional, where fresh, sterilized needles are used.
  • By engaging in safer sex, you can also stop the virus from spreading.
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What are the Stages of the Disease?

  • Time of Incubation - This is the interval between the start of the disease to the initial exposure. It can last between 14 and 80 days, although on average it lasts up to more than 40 days.
  • Acute Hepatitis C - When the virus initially enters the body, the person will experience this short-term illness during the first six months. Some infected people will afterwards spontaneously recover from the infection.
  • Chronic Hepatitis C - More than 80% of those with hepatitis C endure a prolong stage of the illness, usually lasting more than six months, which can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer, both of which are serious health problems.
  • Cirrhosis - A late-stage liver condition called cirrhosis causes the liver to become irreversibly damaged when healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue.
  • Liver Cancer – The risk of liver cancer increases as the individual suffering from hepatitis C crosses the late-stage liver condition, cirrhosis.
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Side Effects of Hepatitis C Drugs:

  • Increased Liver Enzyme Tests
  • Flu
  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Hair Loss
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Trouble Thinking
  • Nervousness

Detection and Treatment of Hepatitis C:

  • Anti-HCV Test: The anti-HCV test, often known as the HCV antibody test, scans blood for hepatitis C virus antibodies. These protein structures are produced by the body when hepatitis C virus is detected in the blood. They frequently start to show up 12 weeks following the sickness.
  • HCV RNA: To detect if a person has the hepatitis C virus (HCV), a HCV RNA PCR test can be performed which counts the amount of viral RNA.
  • Liver Function Tests: This test checks the enzyme and protein levels, which typically increase 7 to 8 weeks after infection.

For acute hepatitis C there is no treatment however, for chronic hepatitis C there are certain medications available. Patients suffering from this disease are often provided oncolytic virus therapy. Some of the medications which are provided to the affected individuals are as follows:

  • Sofosbuvir-velpatasvir-voxilaprevir: Three different HCV antiviral classes are included in this medication. This combination may be used to treat adults with chronic HCV, either without cirrhosis or with compensated cirrhosis (the stage of the illness without symptoms), who have already taken some medications. Headache, tiredness, diarrhea, and nausea were the most frequent adverse reactions.
  • Ombitasvir-paritaprevir-ritonavir: To treat chronic hepatitis C infection, ombitasvir, paritaprevir, ritonavir, and dasabuvir are used with or without ribavirin. Treatment with the combination drug ombitasvir-paritaprevir-ritonavir and dasabuvir can seriously harm the liver, usually in patients with severe liver disease.
  • Ledipasvir-sofosbuvir: Adults and children three years of age and older who have chronic hepatitis C infection are treated with the combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir, either with or without ribavirin.

Government Initiatives for Hepatitis C

  • Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan was designed for United States to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030.
  • Few nations and state governments have taken steps to reduce the spread of hepatitis C by providing specific funding for programs that treat the disease or by subsidizing certain medications.
  • Several private NGOs raise public awareness of the hepatitis C infection and educate the public about it.
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