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What is HepC?

Discussion in 'HEP C HIV' started by gk, Jan 7, 2004.

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  1. gk

    gk Well-Known Member

    Hepatitis C

    Hepatitis C is a viral infection that usually attacks the liver but can manifest elsewhere. It is a member of the flaviviridae family. After the identification of HAV and HBV (Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B) it was realized there was yet another form of hepatitis yet to be identified.

    Until 1989, when HCV was identified, the remaining hepatitis viruses were referred to as non/A non/B hepatitis. This discovery of HCV prompted immediate development of a screening device and in 1990 screening of HCV was implemented throughout blood banks. In 1992 testing sensitivity was increased dramatically.

    Although HCV is four times more common than HIV, due to the lack of public awareness it is sometimes referred to as the Silent Epidemic. It is the #1 cause of liver transplants in the United States. Over 4 million Americans (about 2% of U.S. population) are infected with HCV.

    Approximately 38% of those infected have a history of I.V. drug use. If you have even once shared I.V. needles, testing for HCV is strongly recommended.

    Testing for HCV is a good idea for anyone with potential risk. The CDC estimates that only 5% of those infected are aware they have it. In fact, 70% of people who contract hepatitis C do not develop symptoms. The severity of the infection varies greatly and is divided into stages. An estimated 85% of those who contract HCV will become chronic carriers. The additional 15% will somehow overcome the infection on their own. Those who do not resolve the infection by 6 months progress to chronic infection and will probably have the infection for life. Individuals with chronic infection have the potential of developing liver damage, cirrhosis, or more severe complications such as liver failure and liver cancer.

    Most people diagnosed with HCV are diagnosed unexpectedly. They often find out they are positive after being rejected as a blood donor or through mild abnormalities in liver function tests. Due to a high prevalence of HCV and because of complications often occur many years later, those with risk factors should seek testing. If diagnosis can be made early enough it can be easier to prevent potentially serious illness.
     
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