The new rising scare: Hepatitis C. Yes, scarier than Ebola especially in the United States. The CDC is more worried about hepatitis C than it is about many of the other infectious diseases in the United States, including HIV/AIDS (CDC.org). Now, for a little background on Hep C.
Hepatitis by definition means inflammation of the liver. Unlike the hepatitis A and B viruses, there is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C. It is also very difficult to treat. . Many Americans have transmitted hepatitis C Virus (HCV) through blood transfusions or dirty/reused needles. The most common route of infection is through blood-to-blood contact. It can be sexually transmitted; however, researchers believe this mode of transmission to be extremely low. Interestingly, there is a high influx of service men and women that served between the 1970s-1980s that have contracted HCV through blood transfusions or by reused needles. Some researchers claim that dirty tattoo needles easily transmit the virus. A scary fact about HCV is that it can remain dormant for many years in some cases this increases the infections and transmissions rates. Between 3.2-3.5 million people in the United States suffer from hepatitis C (CDC.org). There have been many service men and women that have left the military and found out a decade or two later that they had contracted hepatitis C.
Symptoms of hepatitis C range from very minor ailments to major ones. Click here for an infographic showing a broad list of symptoms. During the progression of infection, patients may develop hepatic encephalopathy. Hepatic encephalopathy occurs when a patient’s liver is no longer able to filter the ammonia out of the body efficiently. This causes patients to be highly disoriented and have an altered-mental status for which they normally have to be admitted to the hospital. Hepatic encephalopathy renders people temporarily out of their minds. The treatment for hepatic encephalopathy is a laxative that binds to the excess ammonia in the system. If you ever have this, just make sure you sleep on the floor next to the toilet, or better yet just sleep on the potty. You have to get the excess ammonia out of your system somehow. For many people suffering from hepatitis C, they do not realize they are sick until it is much too late.
Although HCV is hard to treat, just this year researchers released a new drug. Here is a list of the approved treatments for hepatitis C. There are two categories of hepatitis C, chronic and acute. Over 75% of acute infections, that occur within six months of contracting the infection, become chronic. A little less than a quarter of the patients who suffer from acute hepatitis C can overcome the infection without treatment. Patients with chronic hepatitis C are not so lucky. Many of the treatments are comparable to cancer treatments with the potency of the drugs used. Patients will have extreme malaise, shortness of breath, fever, severe migraines, sweats, and chills. For the most part the treatments target infected red blood cells. Because of this many patients who have undergone long periods of treatment require blood transfusions.
Hepatitis C is a devastating disease that will take about 15 years off of a person’s life. HCV is also co-infectious with HIV/AIDS. About 50-90% of HIV patients also have hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can be prevented by using your brain. Don’t have unprotected sex with a partner that you don’t know. Don’t do drugs or if you do, use clean needles each time and don’t share. Sharing is not caring. If you want to learn more about what the CDC has to say about Hepatitis C, please click here. The CDC has also begun research on hepatitis D, E, F, and G that although are very rare are very deadly. The further down the alphabet we go, the worse the infection is and the more likely the virus is going to be resistant to treatment. However dim that may sound there is so game changing research and new drug treatments that are being released onto the market every year.
“Hepatitis News.” HepCHopce.com. N.p., 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2015.
“Hepatitis C.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 09 Dec. 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2015.
Kasey Anderson is an undergraduate student studying biology at the University of Georgia. She spends most of her time studying infectious diseases but she’ll take time off to whop hinnies on the tennis court. You can email Kasey at firstname.lastname@example.org.