What is Hep C?

Introduction

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. The incubation period range from 2 weeks to 6 months. Compared to other forms of viral hipetatis, hipetatis C often goes unnoticed and develops into chronic disease (80% cases), posing a severe threat to liver health.

Hepatitis C can be classified into 6 different genotypes, with genotypes 2 and 3 having a better prognosis over genotype 1. over time, it may be lead to complications including cirrhosis (scarring of liver), liver failure and liver cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment helps to limit disease progression and its complications.

Transmission

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease, it is commonly transmitted through

  • Sharing needles
  • Sharing personal accessories (e.g. toothbrushes, razors)
  • Exposure to inadequately sterilized medical equipment
  • Contact with infected blood
  • Tattooing and body piercing procedures (e.g nose piercing)
  • Unprotected sex

Nowadays, transfusion-related infections are extremely rare due to universal blood donor testing. In addition, hepatitis C cannot be transmitted through breast milk, casual contact (e.g hugging and kissing) or sharing food and drinks, therefore, disease carriers can carry out their work and activities as normal

Preventive measures

Currently, there is no vaccination against hepatitis C, but the risk cabn be reduced by the following methods :

  • Avoid sharing personal accessories (e.g. toothbrushes, razors)
  • Avoid high risk activities (e.g. tattooing, body piercing)
  • Good personal hygiene (e.g. hand washing)
  • Safe handing and disposal of sharps, blood and waste
  • Use a condom while having sex
  • Use sterile syringes for injections

If you are infected with hepatitis C, please seek advice from healthcare professionals. Besides early antiviral treatment, you should also be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B for further protection.

Are you at risk?

There is increased risk of infection for people who :

  • Were born between 1945 and 1975
  • Lived in high-prevalent countries, including the Middle East, South Asia, Eastern and Southern Europe
  • Abuse drugs
  • Tried tattooing or body piercing (e.g. nose piercing)
  • Were born from an infected mother
  • Have an infected-sex partner
  • Are infected with HIV
  • Received blood products or undergo invasive procedures without adequate infection-control mensures

Symptoms

The incubation period of hepatitis C ranges from 2 weeks to 6 months. During acute infection, most patients (80%) actually feel quite healthy while some may experience rashes or joint pains. In cases of liver damage, the following symptoms may appear.

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Grey-colored stoot
  • Abdominal and joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)

6 WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Source: World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about the hepatitis B vaccine

  • NEVER share needles, razors or toothbrushes

  • If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about how to prevent transmission to your baby

  • Use condoms correctly and consistently

  • Where possible, choose oral medications instead of injections

  • Use only sterilized tatto and piercing instruments