Hepatitis C
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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is caused by Hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C virus is found in the blood of infected persons. 


  1. sharing of needles between i.v. drug abusers, tattooists or acupuncturists (using non-sterile equipment).
  2. sexual contact with an infected person.
  3. accidental pricking with a contaminated needle.
  4. transmission from mother to child is rare.
  5. health care and laboratory staff handling blood and blood products are at an increased risk.

Infection with Hepatitis C virus results in the chronic carrier state in over 70 per cent of cases.


Reservoir
Humans.


Incubation period
This ranges from 2 weeks to 6 months; commonly 6 - 9 weeks. Chronic infection may persist up to 20 years before the onset of cirrhosis and hepatoma.


Signs and Symptoms

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Joint Pain
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Jaundice (yellowish colour on the skin and eyeballs)

 Signs and symptoms, when they occur, are milder than Hepatitis B.


Diagnosis
Blood tests:

  1. Detection of HCV - specific antibodies (Anti HCV).
  2. Detection of HCV nucleic acid from clinical samples.
  3. Liver function tests can determine the severity of the disease.
  4. In chronic hepatitis C, a tissue sample from the liver can be used to assess its severity.


Control and Prevention

Educate patient and family members on disease, possible mode of transmission.

Emphasis:

  • Avoid sharing of needles in intravenous drug users (harm reduction).
  • On transmission to sexual partners (rare) - use of condoms.
  • To educate on personal hygiene, hand washing, patient to keep their own belongings.
  • Toilet facilities can be shared as long as hygiene and cleanliness is observed.
  • Follow up of family members is important and contacts are encouraged to have their blood tested for the presence of anti-HCV.
  • There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.

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