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What Do You Know About Hepatitis C?

By on March 20, 2011

You may have heard of Hepatitis C associated with actress Pamela Anderson or singer Natalie Cole, both women publicly acknowledging infection. Left unchecked, Hepatitis C can damage the liver among other vital organs. You want to protect yourself and your partner so refresh your knowledge. You get Hepatitis C the same way you get HIV, it’s that simple. Like HIV, Hepatitis C can be prevented. Here are some facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States. More than 3 million people are said to be infected. That’s more than the population of the city of Atlanta!

HCV is transmitted primarily through large or repeated percutaneous (i.e., passage through the skin) exposures to infectious blood, such as:

  • Injection drug use (currently the most common means of HCV transmission in the United States)
  • Receipt of donated blood, blood products, and organs (once a common means of transmission but now rare in the United States since blood screening became available in 1992)
  • Needlestick injuries in health care settings
  • Birth to an HCV-infected mother

HCV can also be spread infrequently through sex with an HCV-infected person and sharing personal items contaminated with infectious blood, such as razors or toothbrushes. Each of these are believed to be  inefficient vectors of transmission. Although HCV is not “easily” transmitted sexually, persons at risk for infection through injection drug use might seek care in STD treatment facilities, HIV counseling and testing facilities, correctional facilities, drug treatment facilities, and other public health settings where STD and HIV prevention and control services are available.

Sixty to 70% of persons newly infected with HCV typically are usually asymptomatic or have a mild clinical illness. So a person can be infected and not know it initially. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, dark urine, clay-colored stool, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and even vomiting. See a doctor if you feel you have been exposed to Hepatitis C so you can get tested right away. Protect yourself by using latex condoms with sex partners and avoiding sharing needles.

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