Hepatitis does not always include symptoms, hence one should not ignore it. It is better if we have ourselves tested for Hepatitis C as we might not be aware if we have it, just to be on the safer side.
Hepatitis c is an evolving infection causing liver disease. The high risk of chronicity of this blood-borne infection and its relations with liver cancer emphasizes its public health importance.
Often, people with liver disease have no signs or symptoms or have only mild symptoms for years or even decades until they have cirrhosis.
According to WHO and NCBI, India alone has a projected burden of 86 lakh HCV carriers. Of these infected individuals, one-third will eventually develop cirrhosis or liver cancer. It is estimated that 180 million people are infected worldwide, and more than half of them are not even aware of their infection. In addition, 3% of the global population is chronically infected with HCV. Nearly 399 000 people die each year from hepatitis c, generally from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a communicable disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) that mainly affects the liver. During the early infection, people often have minor or no symptoms. Sometimes a fever, dark urine, abdominal pain, and yellow tinged skin occurs however over many years, it often leads to liver disease and occasionally cirrhosis. In some cases, those with cirrhosis will develop complications such as liver failure or liver cancer. After acute infection, 75%–85% of patients develop chronic disease. Chronic HCV infection often gets vulnerable and may ultimately result in cirrhosis, and the need for liver transplantation.
How Does It Happen?
It may happen through sharing drugs and needles, unsafe health care practices, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products, having unsafe or rough sex, an infected mother to a child.
Hepatitis c does not spread through food, water, or by casual contact.
Who Might Get It?
▪ A person who received blood from a HCV infected donor.
▪ Someone who have ever injected any drug.
▪ A person who had a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before July 1992.
▪ Someone who was born between 1945 and 1965.
▪ Is or was on long-term kidney dialysis.
▪ Have HIV or
▪ Were born to a mother with hepatitis c.
The treatment of HCV infection has improved at an extremely fast pace over the past few years. India has developed a new treatment landscape of HCV infection that is expected to bring down treatment cost significantly.
Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95% of persons with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low. There are various combination of drugs that might be effective for the treatment of HCV. According to WHO, therapy with DAAs can cure most persons with HCV infection and treatment is shorter (usually 12 weeks).
Blood transfusion and risky therapeutic involvements by infected needles are two preventable causes of spread of hepatitis C infection. Moreover, risk factor adjustment by reducing the number of intravenous drug users will help limit the commonness of this infection.
There aren’t any vaccine for hepatitis c, consequently prevention of HCV infection depends upon decreasing the risk of exposure to the virus by maintaining hand hygiene, safe use injections, testing donated blood for HCV and appropriate use of condoms while intercourse.
By Dr. Mahesh Gopasetty -Senior Consultant in Hepato Pancreato Biliary and Liver Transplant Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore