What do you know about hepatitis C? From infection control to severity, there's plenty of useful information available about the disease. Most importantly, hepatitis C is a liver disease that can be classified as either chronic or acute.1 What's the difference?
Acute: When hepatitis C is short-term, it is referred to as acute and generally affects a patient within the first six months of exposure to the virus. This is often a stepping stone to chronic cases.
Chronic: Most patients who have chronic hepatitis C experience long-term health concerns that may lead to death in some cases. Since there's no vaccine for the infection, it's important for individuals to avoid risky behaviors that are associated with the virus.
Since there are several strands of hepatitis – A, B and D – many are unsure of which causes are directly related to the C virus. Individuals who partake in the following activities may be at risk for contracting hepatitis C:2
- Unclean needle usage
- Unprotected sexual contact
- Contact with improperly disinfected needles during tattooing or acupuncture
- Long-term kidney dialysis
- Work with blood regularly – such as health care professionals
Although it is rare in the U.S., some people can contract hepatitis C after receiving a blood transfusion. Mothers giving birth who are infected with the virus also risk passing the infection on to their children. Another potential cause may be organ transplants that are received from a donor who had hepatitis C.
A major issue for those who contract the virus is that they will often not exhibit symptoms. However, if someone has reason to believe they may be at risk because of the above referenced causes, there are signs of the infection to look out for. Those may include:
- Pain in the area of the upper right abdomen
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained nausea and/or vomiting
There are blood tests available that health care professionals can administer to appropriately diagnose hepatitis C. Those who have the infection will need to undergo additional procedures to see what extent their livers have been damaged as well.
In the news
As there are no current cures for hepatitis C; those in the health care industry are regularly looking for advancements. In doing so, a new study has found that two drugs – one old and the other new – may work well together in curing the virus. The research included 60 patients who had liver damage and were not experiencing relief from other drug regimens currently in use.3
The old drug is ribavirin, commonly used to treat hepatitis C. As for the second, sofosbuvir is currently be considered for approval by both the United States and Europe. Depending on the dose of the drugs administered, 48 to 68 percent of the involved participants had the virus clear of their system following treatment.
Since the verdicts it still out for sofosbuvir, it will take some time before doctors are able to use this regime on patients who have contracted the virus. However, it's still important for those who believe they are at risk to be screened for the infection, as more than 3 million Americans are suffering, and most are unaware.
Medex Supply can provide health care practitioners with infection control supplies that will help prevent infection such as hepatitis C from spreading further across the population. Additionally, Medex provides hospital infection control equipment and other medical supplies.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Hepatitis C information for the public" May 6, 2013
2 National Institutes of Health, "Hepatitis C" November 16, 2012
3 National Institutes of Health, "New drug combo helps hard-to-treat hepatitis C" August 27, 2013