What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis C Virus. Hepatitis C Virus is the leading cause of liver cancer in the world. The Hepatitis C Infection is a disease that is communicable by blood and it is therefore not an easy disease to contract. Hepatitis C infection usually results in severe damage to health and long-term illness.
In order to start showing any effect on the body and its working, any virus first stays dominant in the body. This dominant period of the virus in the body is called the incubation period. The incubation period is that time when the person has already been exposed to the virus and the virus is yet to manifest itself in the body’s functioning. The incubation period for the Hepatitis C Virus is commonly between 14 – 80 days after initial exposure to the virus.
According to the World Health Organisation, the average incubation period for the Hepatitis C Virus is 45 days.
The World Health Organization states that approximately 1 out of 3 people in the world have been infected by the Hepatitis B Virus or Hepatitis C Virus. In 2015 the World Health Organisation survey found that close to 1.3 million deaths were caused by some type of hepatitis infection. Currently, it approximated that 185 million people are infected with the Hepatitis C Virus, out of 2.3 billion people of the world who are infected by some kind of hepatitis viruses. A study reports that hepatitis virus causes close to 1.4 million deaths each year; Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections are responsible for approximately 90% of these fatalities.
The two major stages that the exposure to the Hepatitis C Virus can lead to are as following:
1. Acute Hepatitis C
In this stage of Hepatitis C infection, the virus clears out from the body within the 6 months of exposure to it. The body fights off the viral infection in these months through its natural antibodies. Any manifested illness and its side effects do not continue after the virus is flushed out from the body, and the person can hope to continue to live a normal life.
2. Chronic Hepatitis C
Usually 80% of the Acute Hepatitis C patients are unable to fight the infection without external help, this leads to them facing the Chronic Hepatitis C Viral infection. This is a long-term infection stage of the disease and can lead to severe health problems.
What are the complications related to Hepatitis C Infection?
Hepatitis C Virus can be detrimental to liver health. The exposure to this virus leads the path to many other liver illnesses. The major diseases that a Hepatitis C Virus leads to, after reaching the chronic stage, are Liver Cirrhosis, Liver Cancer, and Liver Failure.
The Liver Cirrhosis disease leads to the inflammation of the liver that slowly replaces the healthy liver cells with scar tissue. This disease is a slow-acting one that can show drastic effects in approximately 20 to 30 years; however, its advancement can be accelerated if the patient consumes alcohol or has an HIV infection.
Liver Cancer is the stage when a tumour grows in or on the liver itself. The possibility of contracting Liver Cancer increases if a person has Liver Cirrhosis. Alcohol, HIV, AIDS, etc., are a few accelerating factors that can lead to the advancement of the Liver Cancer stage.
Liver Failure is a final stage of any liver disease, including liver cancer. Liver Failure is termed as the stage when the liver stops working, this causes a shutdown of other vital organs in the body. This shutdown of the liver usually leads to the death of the patient.
An estimated 71 million Chronic Hepatitis C patients are likely to develop Liver Cirrhosis and Liver Cancer. Liver Cirrhosis and Liver Cancer account for approximately 399,000 deaths annually.
Common Causes for Hepatitis C Infection
Since Hepatitis C Virus is a blood-borne virus, a direct blood-to-blood contact with a Hepatitis C patient is the primary cause of contracting Hepatitis C Infection. The Hepatitis C Virus spreads when the contaminated blood enters an uninfected person’s bloodstream.
The Hepatitis C Virus can be contracted by the following causes:
- Infected organ transplant
- Transfusion of Infected Blood
- Sharing items of personal nature with an infected person, like razors or toothbrushes
- Sharing of Needles and other medical supplies
- A mother infected with the Hepatitis C virus can infect the baby at birth
- Sexual contact whenever there is exposure to infected blood
- Accidentally sticking a needle, that was used on an infected person, in yourself
- Tattoo or piercing with tools or inks that were not kept sterile
- Contact with the blood or open wounds of an infected person
- Not handling infected blood with gloves
Symptoms of Hepatitis C Infection
Since the incubation period for the Hepatitis C Virus is from 2 – 24 weeks, approximately 80% of people do not exhibit any symptoms after the initial contact with the virus. The common signs of Hepatitis C Virus infection, defined by the World Health Organisation, are:
- Fatigue or Excessive Tiredness
- Decreased Appetite
- Abdominal Pain
- Dark Urine
- Grey or Dark Coloured Faeces
- Pain in the Joints
Method of Prevention of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis infection is a disease with severe consequences. Therefore, it is usually recommended to follow a few precautions as a mean of prevention against contracting the infection.
The primary precautions for prevention interventions to avoid contracting the disease are as following :
- Safe use of health care injections
- Safe handling and disposal of medical waste
- Use of sterilised equipment in the health care system
- Request for testing of donated blood for Hepatitis Virus, HIV, and syphilis
- Preventing exposure to blood during sex
- Practising safe and healthy hygiene
- Consistent use of condoms
Hepatitis C Treatments
Usually, therapy with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) is the most effective way to counteract the Hepatitis C Virus. This treatment is of a short duration, usually 12 to 24 weeks, depending on the absence or presence of cirrhosis. This treatment has a high cure rate in most cases of Hepatitis C Virus infection.
The Centre for Disease Control in the USA states that Hepatitis C Virus is present in several distinct forms or genotypes in the world. Currently, research has identified 7 distinct HCV genotypes and 67 subtypes. Although all chronic Hepatitis C infections follow the same course of the disease, regardless of the genotype of the infecting virus, the treatment varies on the viral genotype. It is recommended to consult a doctor to identify the Hepatitis C genotype and its proper treatment.
Nutritional Care related to Hepatitis C Infection
In order to live with a healthy and positive nutritional attitude while getting help for Hepatitis C infection, a person must establish healthy attitudes on weight and body image as well as adopt a healthy eating pattern along with a regular exercise regime. This will help a patient to live a wholesome life without further deterioration of physical and mental health.
The following points must be kept in mind while taking the nutritional requirements of a Hepatitis C infected person:
- Avoid contaminated shellfish.
- Avoid stale meats.
- Avoid high-iron foods and iron supplements; studies state that they accelerate the hepatic iron uptake of the body that creates acceleration in the Hepatitis C progression.
- Undertake a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet.
- Maintain a healthy vitamin D status; its deficiency is common in patients of chronic disease.
- Avoid very high B12 status; it may foster viral replication in patients.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What are the precautions to take to avoid Hepatitis C Infection?
Ans. The precautions and methods of preventions are nearly the same. As stated above, a person must avoid blood-to-blood exposure with a Hepatitis C patient. The common precautions are:
- Healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Good personal hygiene
- Safe medical procedure
- Clean personal practices
- Avoidance of substance abuse
Q2. Are there any Home Remedies for curing Hepatitis C Infections?
Ans. There are many home remedies available on the internet that purport to cure and care for Hepatitis C infections, however, there are no studies that prove such claims. There are no proven home remedial cures for this infection. Hepatitis disease is a serious health concern and should not be neglected. It is recommended to consult a doctor for the cure of Hepatitis C infection.
Q3. Is Hepatitis C infection hereditary?
Ans. No. Hepatitis C Virus is a blood-borne virus and is not hereditary in nature. However, if a mother is infected with the Hepatitis Virus then it is likely that the child will be exposed to the virus at birth. This is the only means of generation-to-generation transmission of the disease.
Q4. What are the common myths associated with Hepatitis C?
Ans. There are many myths regarding Hepatitis C Virus. The most common myths are related to the transmission of the virus from one person to the other. The Hepatitis C Virus is not communicable through:
- Breastfeeding except when the nipples are cracked and bleeding
- Casual and common contact body contact
- Coughing in public
- Skin contact with an infected person
- Kissing an infected person
- Mosquito bites
- Sharing of eating utensils
- Sharing of food or drink
- Sneezing in public
Q4. When should a person get tested for Hepatitis C Virus?
Ans. The Centre for Disease Control in the USA recommends testing if any of the following statements are true:
- If you have received blood from an infected donor
- If you have ever been exposed to illegal drugs orally or intravenously
- If you have had a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before July 1992
- If you have received a blood product used to treat clotting problems before 1987
- If you have been on long-term kidney dialysis
- If you have HIV
- If you were born to a mother with hepatitis C
- If you have symptoms of liver disease
The Hepatitis Viral Infection is a communicable disease that can only be transmitted through blood transmission from one person to another. There are no proven home remedies that can effectively cure Hepatitis C Infection. Healthy lifestyle choices, good personal hygiene, and safe medical practices can help in the reduction of the chances for exposure to this viral infection. Timely consultation with a medical professional can aid in the proper care and cure of the Hepatitis C Viral Infection and its related diseases.