The Hepatitis C Disease
In the United States, it is estimated that 3.5 million people are infected with Hepatitis C (Smith, Morgon, Becmett, Falck-Ytter, Holtzman, Teo and Alter, 2012). The hepatitis C have 6 different strains of the virus thus occurs in many forms. However, the most common strain is type 1. The disease is meaningful to me because I know of several close people suffering from the disease.
Only a few infected people experience symptoms of the disease that may include dark urine or stool that is clay colored. Most people may therefore not be aware. There are other symptoms that may accompany or occur alone including other symptoms may include jaundice, stomach pain, fatigue and loss of appetite among others. Because of the few or no symptoms, the disease is usually referred to as the “sleeping dragon.”
Hepatitis C is spread by exposure to infected blood. The disease can be transmitted through the following ways:
- I) By birth
- II) By being stuck by infected needles.
III) Through sharing drugs and needles. This can happen if the instruments are exposed to blood and re-used without proper cleaning and sterilization.
- IV) Though sexual intercourse especially if one has an STD or HIV.
The disease cannot be transmitted through ways like casual contact, or by kissing and coughing.
People who are HIV positive, those on long-term dialysis and those born to a mother with hepatitis C are recommended to get tested for the disease. Other people at risk include those born between 1945 and 1965, anybody who has ever injected drugs, anybody who receives blood from a donor who has the disease and also people who obtain tattoos in unregulated places like prisons (Poordad, Bronowicki, Gordon, Zeuzem, Jacobson, Sulkowski, … & Sings 2012).
Hepatitis C usually multiplies and spreads very fast in the body making it impossible for the body to produce effective antibodies. As a result, an effective vaccine against the disease has yet to be developed. Hepatitis C infection in the liver leads to inflammation. Over several years, the inflammation may cause death of liver cells or scarring of the liver. When scarring becomes extensive, it results to liver cirrhosis. When this happens, the vital functions of the liver are impaired and eventually the condition may cause liver cancer (hepatoma). Hepatitis C infection can be prevented using the following ways; using a latex condom during sexual intercourse, avoiding sharing of personal items like razors, avoiding donating blood/tissue if infected.
Currently, the treatment for Hepatitis C involves a combination of medications. It involves an injection called Peg interferon which is usually administered once per week and a pill called Ribavirin which is taken twice per day. In some instances, a protease inhibitor may be prescribed. HCV medications may cause many side effects that include; anxiety, fevers, depression, fatigue, irritability and body aches. Many people during treatment appear to be fine. This can cause problems if the patient feels awful and the people around him cannot notice. Hence good and open communication is important so that the caregiver and people around the patient can know how he/she feels.
It is also important for HCV patients to join a support group so that they can get encouragement. If the group is open, a care provider can drive and accompany the patient. A support group is important because some patients may not want about talk about their experience with the disease while others may want to share and talk about it. Hepatitis C patients usually become irritable during treatment. It is therefore for the people around them to understand and cope with their mood swings.
Portland, D., Bronowicki, J.P. Gordon, S.C., Zeuzem, S., Jacobson, I.M., Sulkowski, M.S.,…&Singhs, H.L. (2012).”Factors that Predict response of patients with hepatitis c virus infection to bocepreuir.” Gastroenterology, 143(3),608-61
Smith, B.D. Morgan, R.L., Beckett, G.A, Falck-Ytter, Y., Holtzman, D., Two , C. G.,…& Alter , M. (2012). Recommendations for the identification of chronic hepatitis c virus infection among persons born during 1945-1965. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Recommendations and Reports, 61(4), 1-32)