Hepatitis C is a problem in many countries, and even developed countries have a high prevalence of this problem. According to the World Health Organization, chronic hepatitis C is a severe problem and one of the leading causes of liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Up to $95,000 is spent every year to treat hepatitis C infections, and that is only in the United States. If we translate this into a worldwide scenario, medical care costs can reach $370 billion annually.
But it all comes down to how patients experience this disease. What do you need to know about hepatitis C? In this article, we’re going through the basics of the disease, what happens in your body during a hepatitis C infection, the signs and symptoms, and much more.
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection caused by a hepatitis C virus. This virus is prevalent in the liver tissue and causes severe inflammation in this organ. The genetics of the hepatitis C virus is similar to yellow fever and dengue. But this is a chronic disease virus and produces around 10 trillion new viruses every day.
Blood transfusions were the primary cause of hepatitis C transmission for many years. But after 1992, new screening methods before blood transfusions reduced hepatitis C transfusions via donated blood. Nowadays, transfusion risk is around one transmission per 1-2 million units.
Who is at a higher risk?
If blood transfusions are not the primary transmission method, who is at a higher risk? Infection risk is very high in people who inject recreational drugs and share needles. Using nonsterile needles carries the hepatitis C virus from one drug user to another. According to recent information from the United States, one-third of patients infected with the hepatitis C virus have a drug injection history. Additionally, there is some risk of hepatitis C transmission in cocaine users.
Needle-stick injuries are the main reason why healthcare workers are also at a higher risk. They often endure occupational exposure and have a higher risk of hepatitis C and other diseases. Patient-to-patient exposure in a healthcare environment is also possible during surgery, via dialysis, or through a contaminated colonoscope.
Another via of transmission is sexual intercourse, but it is not very common in heterosexual couples.
Finally, there is a transmission risk by getting a tattoo and sharing razors. Acupuncture can be a transmission route if the needles are not properly sterilized. Breastfeeding does not increase transmission risk, and the risk of maternal-fetal transmission is no more than 5%. Saliva and other casual contacts rarely lead to an infection.