Hepatitis is a very serious disease. There are three types of hepatitis. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, and each is caused by a different virus. While the symptoms are similar, each one is transmitted differently and each affects the liver differently. There are vaccines available to help prevent Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, however, there is not one for Hepatitis C.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver that can either be mild and last just a few weeks. This is called acute Hepatitis C virus infection. If a person is exposed to the virus, they can start seeing symptoms withing six months. Most people with acute Hepatitis C will end up getting the chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a long term illness, and the virus can stay in the patient’s body forever. Over time, it can lead to serious problems such as scarring of the liver, also known as cirrhosis It can also lead to liver cancer.
Hepatitis C Statistics
Each year, there are about 30,500 cases of Hepatitis C reported in the U.S. Currently, there are over 3 million people in the United States who have the disease. Over 75 percent of the people who become infected develop the chronic infection.
How is Hepatitis C Transmitted?
Before 1992, people could transmit Hepatitis C through a blood transfusion. Today, the blood supply is screened. The only ways that this disease can be transmitted can be prevented. The most common causes of the spread of this disease include:
- IV drug users sharing needles, syringes, and other devices used to inject drugs.
- When a healthcare provider accidentally gets a needlestick in a health care setting.
- Being born to a mother who already has chronic Hepatitis C.
There are other less common ways to transmit the disease. These include:
- Sharing personal items with an infected person that could have their blood on them (razor, toothbrush, etc.)
- Having unprotected sexual contact with a person who has the Hepatitis C virus. (This is rare. The risk becomes higher if a person has multiple sex partners, engages in rough sex, has a sexually transmitted disease, or if the person is infected with HIV.
Is Hepatitis C Spread Through Tattoos and Piercings?
There have been many studies performed when it comes to the link between tattoos and piercings and the transmission of Hepatitis C. Most professional tattoo and piercing parlors adhere to the highest standards and the infection control practices. Since body art has become more and more popular, people are giving tattoos in their home and they don’t have much knowledge of safety practices. The same is true with jailhouse tattoos. In these settings, transmission is possible.
How is Hepatitis C Not Spread?
It is important to know the ways that this disease cannot be transmitted.
- Sharing utensils
- Through food and water
How To Avoid Contracting Hepatitis C
It is very easy to prevent contracting Hepatitis C. Avoid using IV drugs and sharing needles. Only get tattoos and piercings by a licensed individual in a professional setting. Avoid having unprotected sex and don’t share personal products with anyone. Finally, women with Hepatitis C should seek advice from a medical professional before getting pregnant.
Hepatitis C is a serious disease, which can result in serious, life-threatening problems. Over 60 percent of people who get the disease will suffer from chronic liver disease. Between 5 and 20 percent of people will develop cirrhosis within 20 to 30 years. Between 1 and 5 people will die from cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
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