Hepatitis C. Causes,Transmission, Symptoms and Treatment
Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. It is a member of the family of viruses that include hepatitis A and hepatitis B. The viruses behave differently and have different modes of transmission.
Hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, and even death.
What causes hepatitis C?
HCV is caused by a virus transmitted through blood-to-blood contact.
A virus is a microscopic, infectious particle that contains nucleic acid (genetic instruction DNA or RNA). HCV is an RNA virus.
Viruses lie in a dormant state until entering the living cell of a host, where it will then hijack the cell’s hardware to replicate itself.
Research suggests that chronic HCV infection consists of millions, or billions of actual viruses circulating within the body. At least six distinct HCV genotypes (named 1-6) and 70 subtypes have been identified.
HCV is not transmitted through casual contact, respiratory droplets, sharing food, kissing, or through mosquito bites.
For a blood-to-blood infection to occur, blood from an infected person must enter the body of someone who is not infected. By far, the biggest risk factor for becoming infected with HCV is injectable drug use; specifically sharing needles or equipment used to inject drugs.
A speck of blood so small that it is not viewable to the naked eye can carry hundreds of hepatitis C virus particles. Cleaning with alcohol or rinsing with soap and water, even letting the needle and syringe air-dry for several days will not kill the virus.
Once it is injected into the body, even if on only one occasion, exposure has occurred and infection is quite possible.
Around 30% of persons who inject drugs are infected with HCV within the first two years of using. After five years of IDU, 90% of users will be infected.
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis C
About 75% of people have no symptoms when they first get hepatitis C infection. The remaining 25% may have
loss of appetite,
muscle aches, or
Very few people experience hepatitis symptoms or signs such as dark urine, yellow eyes, or clay colored stools in acute or early infection. Over time, people with chronic infection may develop signs of liver inflammation.
This is often the first suggestion that the infection may be present. Infected individuals may become easily fatigued or complain of nonspecific symptoms.