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Safety Concerns for Health Care Professionals

  • Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus that attacks the liver and is transmitted through blood to blood contact.
  • For health care professionals, this indicates a need to take precautions before any contact with a client’s blood or use caution in any situation that may result in exposure to a client’s blood, such as exposure to other bodily fluids, injections, etc.
  • If you are exposed to direct blood to blood contact with someone known to carry HCV, monitor yourself for common symptoms and get tested for HCV.

Disease Progression in Patients

  • Acute infection of HCV: Initial period of exposure which usually dissipates after 2 to 12 weeks.
  • Chronic infection of HCV: After the initial infection, some patients may see the disease continue and become chronic. In most patients, chronic HCV does not develop symptoms, but 10 to 25% of patients will begin to develop symptoms of liver disease or deterioration over the years.

HCV Diagnostic Symptoms

  • Flu-like symptoms at the acute infection stage (Nausea, fatigue, fever, headache, reduced appetite, muscle or joint pain, increased sweating)
  • Additional symptoms when the infection becomes chronic may include: depression, changes in mood that can be rapid, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating)
  • As the disease moves into the late stages, symptoms may change depending on the condition of the liver, but common additional symptoms may include: confusion, dizziness, vision trouble, memory problems, bloating or fluid retention, jaundice)

Treatment of HCV

  • HCV inhibitor: Stops the HCV virus from replicating and creating new viruses.
  • The inhibitor may be administered with or without Ribavirin depending on the genotype of the HCV.
  • Herbal remedies: Some success has been noted when natural remedies are used in addition to the inhibitor which include milk thistle or licorice root.

Special Patient Concerns

  • Side effects of treatment: The common side effects for the HCV inhibitor and Ribavirin are very similar to the symptoms one might experience in the acute infection stage of the disease.
  • Management strategies for the side effects of medication in a patient with HCV is important due to the nature of the virus. For example, a low dose of acetaminophen may reduce some of the “flu-like” symptoms, but if a patient takes too much acetaminophen, the liver could be damaged or overloaded.
  • Exercise is the most highly suggested recommendation for countering side effects of HCV medication due to the general health and wellness benefits it provides, as well as helping combat fatigue, muscle and joint pain, etc.
  • Proper nutrition is highly important to a patient with HCV due to the liver’s role in processing and removing toxins from the body. Eating less processed food may reduce the strain of the processing and detoxifying on the liver.
  • It is recommended that patients with HCV do not eat raw or under cooked shellfish or foods that contain high levels of sugar, fat, or salt.
  • Alcohol is processed through the liver and may further damage or accelerate any damage that HCV has already done to the liver, so it is usually recommended that patients abstain from alcohol or drink only once in a while.
  • Stress is often a trigger for symptoms of a pre-existing condition or disease to “flare” up or resurface, so it may be worthwhile to go through stress reduction techniques with your patient.
  • Since several of the symptoms of HCV have to do with psychological changes or depression, it may be of value to a patient to attend a support group with other patients and/or people affected by HCV.

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