Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease that is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), affecting the liver.
The infection is often asymptomatic, but once established, chronic infection can cause inflammation of the liver (chronic hepatitis).
This condition can progress to scarring of the liver (fibrosis), and advanced scarring (cirrhosis).
Modes of transmission
- Received blood, blood products, or solid organs from a donor who has hepatitis C
- Have injected street drugs or shared a needle with someone who has hepatitis C
- Have been on long-term dialysis for kidney failure
- Have frequent contact with blood on the job such as doctors
- Have sexual intercourse with multiple partners
- Have sex with a person who has hepatitis C
- Share personal items, such as toothbrushes and razors, with someone who has hepatitis -C
- Are born to hepatitis C infected mothers
Signs and symptoms
- Abdominal pain in the right upper abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low-grade fever
- Pale or clay-colored stools
- Dark urine
- Generalized itching
Anti-HCV (antibody to HCV).
EIA (enzyme immunoassay): This test is usually done first. If positive, it should be confirmed.
RIBA (recombinant immunoblot assay): A supplemental test used to confirm a positive EIA test.
Some patients with hepatitis C benefit from treatment with interferon alpha or a combination of interferon alpha and Ribavirin.
Interferon alpha is given by injection. Treatment with interferon alpha interfere with the production of white blood cells and platelets.
Recently, a version of interferon alpha with a longer half-life (pegylated interferon alpha) has been introduced.
- Chronic hepatitis
One should avoid contact with blood or blood products whenever possible. Health care workers should practice universal precautions when handling blood and body fluids.
One should not inject drugs of abuse, and especially not share needles with anyone. One should be cautious when getting tattoos and body piercings done.
Sexual transmission is low among stable, monogamous couples.