What Is Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus . Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. Today, most people become infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. For some people, HCV infection is a short-term or acute illness but for more than half of people who become infected with HCV, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic HCV infection is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, even death. The majority of infected people might not be aware of their infection because they do not have any symptoms. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The best way to prevent HCV infection is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs.
How Do You Get Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact.
Some ways the infection can be spread include:
- sharing unsterilised needles particularly needles used to inject recreational drugs
- sharing razors or toothbrushes
- from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby
- through unprotected sex although this is very rare
In the UK, most hepatitis C infections happen in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past.
It’s estimated around half of those who inject drugs have been infected with the virus.
How Is Hepatitis C Spread
Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
People can become infected with the hepatitis C virus during such activities as:
- Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs
- Needlestick injuries in health care settings
- Being born to a mother who has hepatitis C
Less commonly, a person can also get hepatitis C virus infection through:
- Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another persons blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
- Having sexual contact with a person infected with the hepatitis C virus
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Is There A Cure For Hep C
Yes, Hep C is curable, including those who also have HIV or other diseases as well.
- Treatments are now shorter , more effective, and have fewer side effects.
- Pills are generally taken orally once day.
- 95% of people with Hep C can be cured with proper treatment.
- for a list of approved Hep C treatments.
The Search For A Vaccine
Even though there are now medications that can cure hepatitis C, researchers are getting closer to finding a vaccine. Vaccines are currently being tested in people with chronic hepatitis C to see if a vaccine will strengthen their immune system. New vaccines may use both hepatitis C antibodies and immune cells called T cells to stimulate immunity.
Even though there is no vaccine yet for hepatitis C, if you have hepatitis C, it is still important to get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B. Being infected with hepatitis A or B could make liver damage worse when you have hepatitis C.
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Protective Immune Responses And Divergent Approaches To Hcv Vaccination
Many candidate HCV vaccines have been assessed for immunogenicity in rodents over the past two decades . They span the spectrum from synthetic peptides, proteins, and virus-like particles to recombinant viruses and DNA plasmids . The potential for a whole inactivated or even a live attenuated HCV vaccine has also recently emerged with development of cell culture models that support virus replication . Very few of these candidate vaccines have been assessed for protection of chimpanzees from persistent HCV infection and represents a bottleneck in vaccine development. Of those HCV vaccines that showed promise in protecting chimpanzees, only two have been assessed for immunogenicity in humans. One vaccine developed by Chiron is comprised of recombinant envelope glycoproteins E1 and E2 that are the target of neutralizing antibodies . The other, developed by Okairos , relies on expression of HCV non-structural proteins from recombinant viruses for induction of CD8+ T cell immunity . Here, we review progress in development of these two vaccines. These very different approaches to antigen selection and delivery are summarized in Figure 2. They reflect an unsettled debate about the role of antibodies versus T cells in protection from chronic hepatitis C.
Neutralizing Antibodies And Vaccine
Seroconversion against envelope glycoproteins E1 and E2 usually occurs several weeks after infection with HCV infection, regardless of whether the virus is cleared or persists . Progress in understanding serum neutralization patterns was slow until about 10 years ago when HCV pseudoparticle and cell culture models of virus entry and replication were established . Recent identification of multiple receptors for HCV also led to development of rodent models for measuring antibody-mediated blockade of virus entry into hepatocytes , including one genetically humanized mouse that facilitates measurement of vaccine-induced humoral responses . The molecular structure of the E2 ectodomain has been solved and key antibody epitopes have been identified , providing new structural models to explain HCV entry into cells, mechanisms of neutralization, and evasion through mutational escape or generation of inhibitory antibodies.
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How Hepatitis Is Spread
Hepatitis A: About 20,000 people in the U.S. contract hepatitis A each year. The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of the infected person. It is spread through contaminated food or water or by certain types of sexual contact.
Children who get hepatitis A often don’t have symptoms, so they can have the virus and not know it. However, they can still spread it easily. Fortunately, children are now routinely vaccinated against hepatitis A.
Most people who get hepatitis A recover completely within two weeks to six months and don’t have any liver damage. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and even death in older adults or people with underlying liver disease.
Hepatitis B: Every year, about 40,000 people in the U.S. become infected with hepatitis B. Acute hepatitis lasts from a few weeks to several months. Many infected people are able to clear the virus and remain virus-free after the acute stage. However, for others, the virus remains in the body, and they develop chronic hepatitis B infection, which is a serious, lifelong condition. About 1.2 million people in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis B. Of these, 15% to 25% will develop more serious health problems, such as liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer, and some people die as a result of hepatitis B-related disease.
Hepatitis B cannot be spread by contaminated water, food, cooking, or eating utensils, or by breastfeeding, coughing, sneezing, or close contact such as kissing and hugging.
Hepatitis B Is Preventable With Safe And Effective Vaccines
Immunization is the primary tool for prevention of hepatitis B virus infection. Given that infections acquired in infancy or childhood are more likely to become chronic than those acquired at an older age, reaching younger groups with timely vaccination and with at least 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine is the core strategy for prevention.Additional measures such as screening of blood donations, provision of sterile injecting equipment and assuring infection control, and promotion of safer sex practices are also important aspects of a comprehensive plan for prevention and control of hepatitis B.
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Blood Donations Before September 1991
Since September 1991, all blood donated in the UK is checked for the hepatitis C virus.
There’s a small chance you may have been infected with hepatitis C if:
- you received a blood transfusion or blood products before September 1991
- you received an organ transplant before 1992
Before 1992 donated organs were not routinely screened for hepatitis C and there is a very small risk a donated organ from someone with hepatitis C could spread the infection.
There are blood tests to check for hepatitis C infection
What You Need To Know About Hep C
- Hepatitis C, also known as Hep C or HCV, is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver.
- Hep C can cause the liver to swell and can lead to severe liver damage and diseases such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 75-85% of people who get the virus will develop a long-lasting infection.
Although there is no vaccine for Hep C, most people who have it can be cured with proper treatment.
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Dont Share Drug Needles Or Paraphernalia
New hepatitis C infections are more common among people who inject drugs, per past research. This is because many drug users share needles, and it only takes a single drop of infected blood for the virus to spread from person to person.
But the virus doesnt only spread through the use of drug needles. It can also spread when two people share a straw or dollar bill for snorting cocaine, when traces of blood are present in the nose.
The best way to prevent an infection is to stop injecting drugs. This will most likely involve getting treatment for substance abuse and addiction. At the very least, only use newly packaged sterile syringes and needles, and never share drug-injecting equipment with others.
Can Hepatitis C Be Spread Through Sexual Contact
Yes, but the risk of transmission from sexual contact is believed to be low. The risk increases for those who have multiple sex partners, have a sexually transmitted disease, engage in rough sex, or are infected with HIV. More research is needed to better understand how and when hepatitis C can be spread through sexual contact.
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How Common Is Chronic Hepatitis C In The United States
An estimated 3.2 million persons in the United States have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Most people do not know they are infected because they dont look or feel sick. In 2013, hepatitis C-related mortality surpassed the total combined number of deaths from 60 other infectious diseases reported to CDC, including HIV, pneumococcal disease, and tuberculosis.
What If I Am Incarcerated During My Hep C Treatment
- Notify your doctor as soon as you can if you have been incarcerated so that you can still continue your treatment. If you are already in prison, still ask to contact your Hep C provider. For more information on California prison rights, or visit the CDC fact sheet on Hep C and Incarceration.
- For the Spanish version of the flyer, .
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Who Should Get Hepatitis Vaccinations
Since the vaccines were first developed, the hepatitis A and B vaccines have become part of the regular childhood immunization schedule. They are not considered a routine adult immunization.
“When we’re talking about adults, I would say yes, get the vaccine if they fit into one of these risk factors” says Poland. “If they don’t fit into the risk factors, their risk is so low that there’s no compelling reason to do it.”
People at risk for hepatitis A include:
- Anyone traveling to or working in areas where hepatitis A is more widespread.
- People whose work puts them in potential contact with hepatitis A, such as those who work with the hepatitis A virus in research labs
- People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates
- People who have chronic liver disease
- People who use recreational drugs, injected or not
- Men who have sex with men
People at risk for hepatitis B include:
- Anyone traveling to or working in areas where hepatitis B is more widespread.
- Health care workers and other people whose job exposes them to human blood
- People with HIV infection, end-stage kidney disease, or chronic liver disease
- People who live with someone with hepatitis B
- People who inject street drugs
- Sexually active people who have had more than one partner
- Anyone who has had an STD
- Men who have sex with men
- Sex partners of people with hepatitis B
How Are Hepatitis B And C Transmitted
A key difference between hepatitis B and C is the way they are transmitted. Hepatitis B is typically transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids like blood and semen, while Hepatitis C can only be transmitted through blood-to-blood contact.
This means that needle sharing is a big problem for the spread of both of these viruses, especially since most people are symptomless and dont know that they’re infected.
Hepatitis C is much more limited in how it can be spread. By contrast, hepatitis B can be spread several ways, including:
- Birth: can be transmitted to a newborn during childbirth.
- Sex: can be transmitted to or contracted from a partner through intercourse.
- Sharing Items of Personal Hygiene: can be transmitted to or contracted from anyone through the use of items like razors and toothbrushes.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
During the acute phase most persons have no symptoms or might experience a mild illness. Symptoms of acute HCV infection, when present, may include:
- Dark-colored urine, light-colored stools
During the chronic phase hepatitis C usually progresses silently, with no symptoms at all during the first 10-20 years. Signs of severe liver scarring may include:
- Star-shaped vein pattern developing on the swollen belly
- Easy bruising and bleeding
Because symptoms of hepatitis C are usually absent, persons with risk for HCV infection should be tested. The blood test for hepatitis C infection is called the hepatitis C antibody test. People who have hepatitis C infection will show positive antibodies on this test. In many cases, it is necessary to confirm a positive hepatitis C antibody test with a more specific test, such as a test for HCV virus RNA.
If you think you have hepatitis C or have risk for hepatitis C, you should contact your doctor. The Communicable Disease Control Unit may be able to help answer your questions.
Feasibility Of Traditional Approaches For Hcv Vaccine Design
Generation of live attenuated and inactivated whole virus vaccines has been effective for protection against other pathogens, but neither strategy is feasible for HCV. Limitations of HCV culture systems make production of a live-attenuated or inactivated whole HCV vaccine technically very challenging . Current culture strains of HCV have adaptive mutations that enhance replication efficiency in vitro with unknown effects in humans. Live attenuated vaccines against other viruses have been generated by either deletion or inactivation of virulence factors and passage of virus in nonhuman primate cell lines to diminish infectivity. However, the virulence factors for HCV have not been defined, and HCV does not replicate at high levels in nonhuman primate cell lines. Thus, practical production aspects and the potential risk of causing disease limit the utility of live attenuated and inactivated whole HCV vaccines.
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Can A Transplant Cure Hepatitis C
If you develop chronic hepatitis C and it leads to liver cancer or liver failure, you may need a liver transplant. Hepatitis C is one of the most common reasons for a liver transplant.
A liver transplant removes a damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy one. However, theres a high likelihood that the hepatitis C virus will be transmitted to the new liver in time.
The virus lives in your bloodstream, not just your liver. Removing your liver wont cure the disease.
If you have active hepatitis C, continued damage to your new liver is very likely, especially if hepatitis C remains untreated.
Use Caution With Tattooing
Licensed businesses that offer tattooing or body piercing are generally thought to be safe from hepatitis C. But getting a tattoo, piercing, or even acupuncture can lead to hepatitis C infection if the equipment was not properly sterilized.
If you choose to get a tattoo or piercing, find out if the business has a valid permit or license. If you receive acupuncture, ask to see your practitioners acupuncture license.
Sexually transmitted hepatitis C is not common, but its possible. If you have sex with someone who has the virus, certain behaviors can increase your risk. These include:
- practicing sex without a condom or other barrier method
- having more than one sexual partner
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Vaccines For Hepatitis A & B
You may have a family member who has viral hepatitis. Or perhaps you recently saw a news brief about a celebrity who contracted hepatitis A or B. Whatever the reason, you want information about a viral illness that you may not have thought much about. What is viral hepatitis? Are you at risk for it? Do you need viral hepatitis vaccines?
Is There A Hepatitis C Vaccine
Currently, no vaccine protects you against hepatitis C. But research is ongoing. A promising study is currently researching a possible vaccine for both hepatitis C and HIV.
However, there are vaccines for other hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A and hepatitis B. If you have hepatitis C, your doctor may suggest that you get these vaccines. Thats because hepatitis A or B infection can lead to further complications when treating hepatitis C.
Preventing other forms of hepatitis is especially important if your liver has already been damaged.
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