What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a contagious, blood-borne infection that affects the liver. It is spread through contact with the blood of someone infected with the hepatitis C virus. This can occur through a simple blood transfusion, injection drug use or an organ transplant. It can also be spread by non-sterile instruments when getting a tattoo or body piercing; and while rare, through sexual transmission.
The CDC estimates that 3.2 million people in the U.S. have hepatitis C with approximately 75 percent of those infected being baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965. The CDC believes many may have been infected in the 1970s and 1980s when hepatitis C rates were high. In addition, baby boomers may have become infected from contaminated blood used prior to 1992 when comprehensive screening for the hepatitis C virus was not in place.
The CDC recommends testing for hepatitis C, as early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and other complications.
What Are The Symptoms of Hep C?
Hepatitis C is known as the silent killer as it may take decades to develop and many people have no symptoms. If symptoms such as those listed below do occur, see a healthcare professional as it could be a sign of serious liver damage.
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal Pain
- Dark Urine
- Grey-colored stools
- Joint pain
Diagnosis and Treatment
A simple, one-time blood test is used to detect the presence of hepatitis C antibodies in a patient’s blood. If the antibodies are present, additional tests are needed to confirm a chronic hepatitis C infection.
How Do You Prevent Hep C?
Avoid exposure to the blood of anyone who is infected with hepatitis C. The virus can be spread by:
- Sharing needles, syringes or other equipment used to inject drugs
- Unsterile instruments in non-reputable tattoo or body piercing shops
- Sharing personal items, such as razors, that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood
- Sex, although it is rare
For more information about hepatitis C, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/index.htm.
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