What Is Hepatitis C And How Is It Transmitted?
Many people have often asked themselves this question – how is Hepatitis C transmitted? Well, first things first. In this article, we shall delve into all the pertinent details of this disease and then narrow down our focus to its mode of transmission.
Hepatitis C is basically an infectious disease of the liver that results from an infection with the hepatitis C virus. The virus is believed to persist in the liver in about 75% to 85% of those infected, which explains why the disease can take rather long before it is diagnosed. If left unattended, Hepatitis C completely compromises the functions of the liver by inviting life-threatening liver conditions such as cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.
When seeking to answer the question as to ’’how is Hepatitis C transmitted’’, e could also begin by understanding some of the global statistics on the disease. As of the year 2015 it was believed that 2% of the world’s population was infected with Hepatitis C. And with 11 million new cases registered in 2013, this explains why the disease needs to be met with prompt interventions before it spreads from one person to another.
Also worth noting is that the disease is common in Central and East Asia as well as Africa. Of the 2015 cases, about 167 000 and 326 000 deaths were attributed to the disease as a result of liver cancer and cirrhosis, both of which are related to the disease.
It is important to have a look at the symptoms of Hepatitis C even before we delve further into answering the question as to ’’how is Hepatitis C transmitted’’.
The symptoms of this disease are categorized based on the severity of the infection, in which case we have acute infection symptoms and chronic infection symptoms.
The following are some of the symptoms related to Hepatitis C acute infection;
>Loss of appetite,
>Fatigue as characterized by lethargy and generalized body weakness,
>Nausea which is a constant feeling of vomiting, especially just after or before taking food,
>Pains in the muscles and joints and
>Consistent and unexplained weight loss.
It is important to note that the symptoms related to acute Hepatitis C only constitute 15% of the cases and generally, these symptoms will resolve in 10 -50% of the cases. However, if the condition is not properly diagnosed, the symptoms will advance into the chronic stages with more serious implications to the patient.
It is also important to note that up to 4/5th of those exposed to the Hepatitis C virus are able to develop chronic infections. This stage of development of the virus is simply defined as the presence of detectable viral activity marked by constant and unchecked replication for a period of up to 6 months. If the symptoms go unchecked, the condition may remain latent in the host for years and indeed, these symptoms may not manifest even after a few decades of chronic infection.
The symptoms of Hepatitis C as related to the chronic stage include the following;
>Fatigue and generalized body weakness,
>Mild cognitive problems accompanied by memory loss,
>Liver cirrhosis which often leads to accumulation of fluids in the abdomen [referred to as ascites], portal hypertension, ease of bruising and uncontrolled bleeding, varices or enlarged veins as are characteristic of the esophageal and the gastric veins, jaundice which is characterized by the yellowing of the skin and eyes and hepatic encephalopathy which is a serious cognitive impairment syndrome.
Mode Of Transmission
So, how is Hepatitis C transmitted? Well, read on to discover some of the ways through which his disease is transmitted.
Drug use Hepatitis C Transmission
One of the first ways through which the disease is transmitted is through the Intravenous Drug Use [IDU]. This mode of transmission is common in the developed countries that battle with the scourge of drug abuse. In the US alone, it is believed that the prevalence of Hepatitis C is among the intravenous drug user population, with statistics putting this percentage at between 60 and 80.
Globally, the countries that lead in the prevalence of Hepatitis C among intravenous drug users include China with a population of 1.6 million closely followed with the US at 1.5 million and Russia at 1.3 million. In the United States, the occurrence is reported to be higher in prisons and other correctional facilities as a result of high-risk behavior such as tattooing using non-sterilized equipment and the shared intranasal drug use.
Hepatitis C may also be spread through healthcare-related exposure such as in blood transfusion, organ transplant and the transfusion of blood products without the proper HCV screening. It is important to note that developed countries like the US and Canada long instituted screening before blood or an organ can be donated.
This has drastically reduced the transmission rates in these countries. However, developing countries still face major challenges due to the fact that this screening is very costly. Aside from blood and organ donation, people who experience needle stick injuries are also at risk of contracting the disease though the risks are reduced chances here.
Non sterilized surgical procedures also form some of the health-related rinks. It is therefore advisable that surgical equipment be thoroughly sterilized after use in order to reduce the risks of transmission, as the virus is believed to survive in these equipment much longer, especially when the equipment’s in question are perforated or hollow.
Sexual Intercourse Hepatitis C transmission
It has always remained a point of controversy as to whether Hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual intercourse or not. There is no close or direct association between the disease and sexual intercourse but it is generally believed that high-risk sexual behaviors such as having multiple sexual partners, engaging in group sex or sexual experiences that involve higher trauma levels of the anogenital mucosa anal sex may act as transmission agents.
Also, it is believed that the disease could be transmitted in the course of a sexual activity where other sexually transmitted infections are passed from one person to another, such as genital ulceration or HIV. Therefore, experts encourage safe sexual practices such as using condoms as the only preventive measure as far as sexual transmissions are concerned.
There are various body modification procedures that are also known to increase the transmission of Hepatitis C, with the most notorious of which is tattooing. Tattooing, when done using non-sterilized surgical items or performed in an unprofessional manner is believed to be a high risk for the spread of this disease. Indeed, there are warring trends as statistics suggest nearly half of prison inmates share unsterilized tattooing equipment.
Closely following tattooing as a means of transmission by body modifications is piercings and as it were, these are also considered dangerous when done unprofessionally or using equipment that have not been carefully sterilized.
Shared Personal Items Hepatitis C Transmission
Just like the personal items used for body modifications, there are other shared personal items that could increase the transmission rates of this disease.
Some of these items include razors, manicuring and pedicuring equipment, toothbrushes etc, that are contaminated by blood.
Mother-to-child Hepatitis C Transmission
Last but not least, Hepatitis C may also be transmitted from a mother to child during pregnancies, though the occurrence here is less than 10%. Unfortunately, there are no medical interventions yet to counter the risk and as of now it is not very clear as to whether the transmissions occur during the gestation period or delivery.
However, it is generally believed that a long labor is a high risk for transmissions. And while there are no evidences suggesting transmission during breastfeeding, a mother is advised to stop any nipple-breastfeeding when she has cracked or bleeding breasts.
So, have you been asking yourself the question as to ’how is Hepatitis C transmitted’’. Well, I hope you are in the know now. And to end this on a yet informative note, you should remember that the disease is not transmitted through any physical contact, sharing of foods, drinks and utensils, coughing or sneezing or even casual display of affection such as kissing or hugging.