Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV). It ranges from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness
It is estimated that 3–4 million people are infected with HCV each year. Some 130–170 million people are chronically infected with HCV and at risk of developing liver cirrhosis and/or liver cancer. More than 350 000 people die from HCV-related liver diseases each year.
HCV infection is found worldwide. Countries with high rates of chronic infection are Egypt (22%), Pakistan (4.8%) and China (3.2%). The main mode of transmission in these countries is attributed to unsafe injections using contaminated equipment.
India is reeling under a serious burden of Hepatitis.
Professor S K Acharya, HoD of gastroenterology at AIIMS, said studies reported from various parts of India estimate that about 20 million Indians are Hep B carriers and about 8 to 10 million may have silent Hep C virus infection.
The virus is most commonly transmitted through exposure to infectious blood such as through-receipt of contaminated blood transfusions, blood products, and organ transplants; injections given with contaminated syringes, needle-stick injuries in health-care settings; injection drug use; being born to an HCV-infected mother. It is less commonly transmitted through sex with an infected person and sharing of personal items contaminated with infectious blood.
Hepatitis C is not spread through breast milk, food or water or by casual contact such as hugging, kissing and sharing food or drinks with an infected person
Knowing one's infection status can prevent health problems that may result from HCV infection and prevent transmission to family and close contacts
Some countries recommend screening for individuals who may be at risk for infection. These include:
Secondary and Tertiary Prevention
Diagnosis of acute infection is often missed because the infected person has no symtoms. Common methods of antibody detection cannot differentiate between acute and chronic infection. The presence of antibodies against HCV (anti-HCV) indicates that a person is or has been infected. HCV recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA) and HCV RNA testing are used to confirm the diagnosis of HCV infection.
Diagnosis of chronic infection diagnosis is made when anti-HCV is present for more than 6 months. Similar to acute infections, diagnosis should be confirmed with an additional test. Specialized tests are often used to evaluate patients for liver disease including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Following initial infection, approximately 80% of people do not exhibit any symptoms. Those people who are acutely symptomatic may exhibit fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-coloured faeces, joint pain, and jaundice (yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes). When a chronically-infected person develops symptoms, it may indicate advanced liver disease.
Statistically, 60–70% of chronically-infected persons develop chronic liver disease 5, -20% develop cirrhosis and 1–5% die from cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Interferon and ribaviron-based therapy has been the mainstay of HCV treatment. Unfortunately, interferon is not widely available globally, is not always well tolerated, some genotypes respond better than others, and many people who take it do not finish their treatment. While HCV is generally considered to be a curable disease, for many persons this is not a reality. Fortunately, scientific advances and intense research and development have led to the development of many new oral antiviral drugs for HCV infection. The future seems to hold great promise for HCV specific oral drugs that will be more effective and better tolerated. Much still needs to be done to ensure that these advances l lead to greater access and treatment globally.
Source: Portal Content Team