What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is due to an infection caused by a virus, mostly found in the liver: the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
The acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs around 6 months after a person has been first exposed to the HCV. Acute infections usually, but not always, become chronic.
The chronic HCV infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the virus remains in a person’s body. A hepatitis C infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver conditions including cirrhosis or liver cancer.
The Hepatitis C virus is transmitted through blood. It is most commonly transmitted through:
Sharing contaminated needles and syringes or other equipment (e.g. for people who injects drugs)
Reuse of inadequately sterilized injection equipment in healthcare settings
In the past, infusion of infected blood products (before systematic controls implementation).
Less frequently, it can also be transmitted through unprotected sexual activities or from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy and/or delivery. These ways of transmissions are more likely to happen when the infected person is also infected by HIV.
Signs usually occur between 2 weeks and 6 months after contamination. Most people (80%) do not present any symptoms; otherwise, they can experience fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite associated or not with jaundice.
Because there are usually no symptoms, many people do not know that they have been infected. Thus, they can transmit the virus to others without knowing.
There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C yet. It is therefore essential to reduce the risk of transmission by avoiding the use of potentially contaminated equipment and protecting oneself during sexual intercourse.
About 15% to 25% of the people acutely infected manage to clear the infection. Acute infection and chronic infections are treated with the same medications.
The standard treatment used to be a combination of drugs, including interferon, an injectable drug, for 6 to 12 months. This treatment was not always well tolerated and a significant proportion of patients were not cured. New treatments, taken only orally, much more effective and better tolerated can cure the infection in 3 to 6 months but their price is not affordable for the huge majority of patients, especially in low and limited resource settings.
There are free and anonymous testing and counselling appointment for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphilis in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Learn more on our contact page