Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV): the blood-borne virus, can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis.
According to medical report, a significant number of those who are chronically infected with Hepatitis C will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.
HOW IS HEPATITIS C CONTACTED?
Hepatitis C virus is mostly contacted through exposure to small quantities of blood;
- The reuse or inadequate sterilization of medical equipment, especially syringes and needles
- Injecting drug use through the sharing of injection equipment;
- Transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products;
- S*xual practices that lead to exposure to blood (for example, among men who have s*x with men, particularly those with HIV infection or those taking pre-exposure prophylaxis against HIV infection).
HCV can also be transmitted s*xually and can be passed from an infected mother to her baby; however, these modes of transmission are less common.
Hepatitis C is not spread through breast milk, food, water or casual contact such as hugging, kissing and sharing food or drinks with an infected person.
WHO ARE AT INCREASED RISK OF HCV INFECTION?
- People who inject drugs;
- People in prisons and other closed settings;
- People who use drugs through other routes of administration (non-injecting);
- Men who have s*x with men
- Recipients of infected blood products with inadequate infection control practices ;
- Children born to mothers infected with HCV;
- People with HIV infection;
- People who have had tattoos or piercings.
HOW DO YOU PREVENT THE VIRUS?
- Immunization with the hepatitis A and B vaccines to prevent co-infection and to protect the liver
- Early and appropriate medical management including antiviral therapy
- Regular monitoring for early diagnosis of chronic liver disease.
- Safe and appropriate use of health care injections
- Safe handling and disposal of sharps and waste
- Provision of comprehensive harm-reduction services to people who inject drugs including sterile injecting equipment and effective and evidence-based treatment of dependence
- Testing of donated blood for HBV and HCV (as well as HIV and syphilis)
- Training of health personnel
- Prevention of exposure to blood during s*x
World Health Organization says there is currently no effective vaccine against hepatitis C; however, research in this area is ongoing.