|Are you a boomer?|
|In case you were wondering what the liver does.|
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks your liver and causes inflammation. Chronic Hepatitis C can cause scarring of your liver tissue (cirrhosis), liver cancer and failure. Most people don't even know they have Hepatitis C because there are little to no symptoms until much later in life. Early symptoms can be confused with flu-like symptoms including; fatigue, fever and nausea. Other early symptoms to look out for are muscle and joint pain, and tenderness in the area of your liver.
|In case you were wondering where your liver was located.|
How can you get Hepatitis C?
There are a few different ways you can get Hepatitis C.
- Being in contact with the blood of an infected person (Even teeny, weeny you can't hardly see it drops).
- Sharing needles (Remember the 70s? Looks like a lot of the baby boomers were in college then and did some experimentation with drugs, including sharing needles with one another).
- Getting a tattoo or piercing with needles not properly sterilized (The actress Pamela Anderson contracted it this way, sharing a tattoo needle with her former husband Tommy Lee who was also infected).
- Getting a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. Prior to this year blood donated was not tested everywhere, and prior to 1987 there was no test to screen for Hepatitis C in the blood.
- Very small amount are infected through childbirth (from mother to baby).
- Rarely transmitted sexually (but it has happened).
Is there a vaccine? How can it be treated?
There is no vaccine at this time. Also just because you have Hepatitis C, it does not automatically mean you need treatment. Your doctor may choose to continue monitoring you through regular blood exams if you have very small liver abnormalities. There are a combination of antiviral medications given, but because it may cause some side effects, it may need to be delayed or stopped for some people. The cost of these medications is very high, estimated to be at least $25,000 for a 48-week course of treatment. If your liver has been severely damaged, a liver transplant may be needed. This is not a cure though, and you will need antiviral medications after the transplant.
The best prevention strategies always include awareness! It's been referred to as a "silent killer" because often those infected don't look or act "sick". Avoid high risk behaviors like using drugs, sharing needles and getting a tattoo or piercing from shady people. Make sure you ask to be screened while you are getting routine blood tests. The earlier it is found, the more treatment options you have.