Have you heard much about Hepatitis C? Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause liver damage to many people. This virus infects the person and causes damage to the liver cells to cause liver and multi-organ failure. Death can arise from liver failure. This is why we must prevent Hepatitis C viruses from infecting us.
Hepatitis C is transmissible from person to person. It can be transmitted from one person to another by contact with blood or other body fluids. There are no symptoms of the disease until there is significant liver damage. Otherwise, there may be non-specific signs and symptoms such as flu-like symptoms, muscle aches and pains, loss of appetite, fatigue and depressed. Most people who have been infected do not know that they have the disease. Hepatitis C can also be transmitted through shared needles of illegal drugs. It can also be transmitted through exposure to infected body fluids at work or through sex.
There are many genotypes of hepatitis C however the most common types are genotypes 1 and 3. After infection, acute hepatitis C sets in and lasts for about 6 months. During this stage, about one in every four people will fight off the infection and will remain free of the virus. However in the majority of these people, the virus will remain in their bodies for many years to become chronic hepatitis C. If the person has certain risk factors such as alcohol use, he will soon develop scarring of the liver or cirrhosis for about 20 years or more after initial infection. One in five people who have cirrhosis will develop liver failure eventually, or liver cancer which may be life-threatening.
Hepatitis C is not often accompanied by symptoms, so that testing is usually recommended for high-risk groups. High risk groups are those who are current or former drug users, commercial sex workers, people who have multiple partners or health care providers. Testing should be done as soon as possible because treatment should be started as soon as possible after exposure to the hepatitis C virus. Treatment of Hepatitis C is through the use of antiviral medications such as interferon and ribavirin. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C unlike other types of hepatitis.
Hepatitis C is an easily preventable infection. To prevent Hepatitis C infection you should not share drug-injecting equipment with other people. Using a condom when you have multiple sexual partners is also another way of minimizing your risk for Hepatitis C infection.
If you are infected with Hepatitis C, you should be treated as soon as possible. However, early treatment for hepatitis C involves multiple daily pills and weekly injections for one year. The cure rate for this treatment is only about 40 percent. The good news is, there are a lot of experimental drugs which are given for only a shorter duration of time and are less intensive. The UT Southwestern Medical Center is currently having clinical trials testing new hepatitis drugs. The new drugs are said to be more potent and effective according to its researchers.
In 2011, two first new drugs against hepatitis C were approved, boceprevir and telaprevir, which are protease inhibitors that interfere with the virus’ ability to replicate. However the drawback of these drugs is that they should be taken as 8 to 12 pills in a day and are associated with side effects. Recently in December 2013, two more new drugs were approved; another protease inhibitor called simeprevir and the polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir, which keeps the virus from multiplying within the liver. These drugs are currently undergoing testing at UT Southwestern Medical Center through clinical trials. The new treatment involves taken only one pill a day and no injections within a time frame of 12 weeks. This new treatment is said to give Hepatitis C management a new face, considering that they can be conveniently taken at a lesser period of time. The researchers say that the success rate for these new drugs is close to 100 percent.
You may learn more about hepatitis C by reading our other articles on this site.