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Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

It is a viral infection of the liver that is caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection is spread by coming in contact with the blood of an infected person. About 30-50% of people have a mild short-lived illness after which the virus clears completely.In other cases, the virus persists forever, leading to chronic illness.The severity of liver disease varies from one person to the other. Some may have minimal or no damage to the liver after decades of infection and in some, the virus leads to cirrhosis,liver failure and cancer over a span of 5-20 years. This virus is the leading cause of liver failure,worldwide. In India, 1-2% of the population (20 million) is infected with the virus.

How can I prevent spreading HCV to others?
  • Do not donate your blood, body organs, tissue or sperms.
  • Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal care articles that might have your blood on them.
  • Cover your cuts and open sores.
  • If you have one long-term, steady sex partner, you do not need to change your sexual practices. There is a very low chance of giving Hepatitis C to that partner through sexual activity. If you want to lower the chances of spreading HCV to your sex partner, you can use barrier precautions such as latex condoms. Also, ask your doctor about having your sex partner tested.

There is no vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis is not spread by:

  • Breast feeding
  • Hugging or kissing
  • Food or water
  • Sharing of eating utensils or drinking glasses
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Casual contact
What if I am pregnant?

About 5 out of every 100 infants born to HCV-infected women become infected. This occurs at the time of birth,and there is no treatment that can prevent this from happening. However,infants infected with HCV at the time of birth do very well in the first few years of their lives. More studies are needed to find out if these infants will face problems due to the infection as they grow older.

What should I do when i have been tested positive for Hepatitis C?

Contact your liver specialist (Hepatologist).Additional tests may be needed to check your diagnosis, to see if you have liver damage and if you need treatment. Many persons with chronic (long-term) Hepatitis C have no symptoms and feel well. But, they should still see a Hepatologist. For some individuals, the most common symptom is extreme tiredness.

How can I take care of my liver?
  • See your Hepatologist regularly
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Tell your Hepatologist about all the medicines that you are taking, including OTC and herbal/ayurvedic medicines
  • If you have liver damage caused by Hepatitis C, you should get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B.
Is there treatment for Hepatitis C?

There are licensed drugs for the treatment of persons with chronic Hepatitis C. Combination drug therapy, using pegylated interferon and ribavirin, can help get rid of the virus in up to 7-8 out of 10 persons.You should check with your Hepatologist to see if this treatment might help you.

Facts at a glance

If you have fatty liver disease or NASH, you should:

  • Hepatitis C is a serious viral infection of the liver that is caused by the Hepatitis C virus.
  • The Hepatitis C virus is transmitted via exposure to contaminated blood (through needles, procedures, blood or blood product transfusions).
  • As many as 20 million Indians are infected with the Hepatitis C virus.
  • Most Hepatitis C patients have no symptoms. They may carry the disease for many years before it is discovered.
  • A simple blood test will let you know if you are infected by the Hepatitis C virus.
  • The Hepatitis C virus stays in the liver. The virus causes continuous damage that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer in some patients.
  • For some patients, antiviral medicines will be helpful in fighting the virus and limiting liver damage.

Appropriate medical or surgical treatment for fatty liver disease or NASH may be advised to help prevent or reverse liver damage.

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