What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C (HCV) is a liver disease. Hepatitis (HEP-ah-TY-tis) C is an infectious virus that is carried in the blood and affects the liver. Before 1990 it was known as “non-A, non-B hepatitis”.
It’s important to keep your liver healthy because it does a lot of things for you. It helps digest food and also stores vitamins and minerals. But most important, the liver acts as a filter for chemicals and other substances that enter the body, including toxins in the air that we breathe and in what we eat and drink. It is also important in the manufacture of your blood and many proteins.
Hepatitis C is a life-threatening, blood borne disease of the liver, which is transmitted by exposure to blood. A particularly dangerous form of viral hepatitis, it is caused by an RNA virus. Hepatitis C can lead to serious, permanent liver damage, and in many cases, death. More than 80 percent of those who are infected will progress to chronic liver disease. It is suspected that there are, at present, more than 4.5 million people in the United States that are infected with hepatitis C, and more than 200 million around the world.
It is suspected that there are, at present, more than 5 million people in the United States that are infected with Hepatitis C, and perhaps as many as 200 million around the world. This makes it one of the greatest public health threats faced in this century, and perhaps one of the greatest threats to be faced in the next century. Without rapid intervention to contain the spread of the disease, the death rate from hepatitis C will surpass that from AIDS by the turn of the century and will only get worse.
What is a virus?
It is a tiny microorganism, even smaller than bacteria that can cause sickness in humans and cannot be treated with antibiotics. They are tiny invaders that enter cells, interfere with the cells. normal activities, and force the cells to make more virus.
Why is Hepatitis C a Health Concern?
While not identified until 1989, the hepatitis C virus has been around for a very long time. Many infected people do not know they have the virus because for some, there will be no symptoms and for others, the symptoms may not show up for 20 to 30 years. During this time, they can spread the disease to others. You may not know you have this disease until damage has already been done to your liver. That’s why you need to know if you’re at risk.
What causes Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is caused by a virus. A virus is a germ that causes sickness. (For example, the flu is caused by a virus.) People can pass viruses to each other. The virus that causes hepatitis C is called the hepatitis C virus.
Can I get a vaccine for Hepatitis C?
There is no vaccine for HCV. Recent studies show that people with HCV become much sicker and their liver becomes much more damaged if they develop another form of viral hepatitis. Doctors are recommending that people with HCV receive the hepatitis A and/or hepatitis B vaccine(s) if they have not been exposed to one, the other or both. That means if a person with HCV is immune to hepatitis B but not to hepatitis A then he/she should get the hepatitis A vaccine. If they are not immune to either then they should receive both the hepatitis A and B vaccine. Checking for immunity involves a simple blood test.