June 29th, 2011 |
Hepatitis C Testing, Hepatitis C Treatment
Worldwide, an estimated 270 – 300 million people have hepatitis C. Testing for and reporting of the disease tend to identify far fewer infections than health officials believe exist, in part because most hepatitis C cases are asymptomatic until the late stages.
In as many as 85 percent of those infected, hepatitis C remains in the liver and can lead to cancer and cirrhosis in the long term.
Q: How Is Hepatitis C Transmitted?
Hepatitis C is passed via blood-to-blood contact, and is most commonly spread:
- From mothers to children;
- Between those who share needles for injected drugs;
- Between those who reuse tattoo or piercing needles without proper sanitation;
- Via certain medical procedures (e.g. from patient to healthcare provider);
- Through blood transfusions or organ transplants done before hepatitis C testing was common;
- By shared razors; and
- By sexual contact, though this is thought to be a rare method of transmission.
Q: How Is Hepatitis C Treated?
Hepatitis C treatment is necessary for those with the chronic form of the disease, or about 50 – 80 percent of those infected, because less than one percent of chronic sufferers have cleared the disease on their own.
New drugs approved in 2011 for treating hepatitis C should improve current rates of success in treatment – the older drugs available only succeed in about 51 percent of sufferers.
Q: What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C?
Unfortunately, this disease is largely asymptomatic in its early stages, which is why few people elect to get hepatitis C testing until the disease has progressed. In those who have acute hepatitis C (that is, in those recently infected), the 30 – 40 percent who display symptoms may present any of the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Flu-like symptoms.
In fact, one reason so few people get hepatitis C testing done is because its symptoms are so similar to those of the flu.
Chronic hepatitis C (when the disease is present longer than six months) usually presents no symptoms until cirrhosis or liver cancer sets in, which generally doesn’t occur until several years after infection.
Q: Is Hepatitis C an STD?
A: Current research suggests that sexual transmission of this disease is difficult. However, STD testing facilities often offer hepatitis C testing because the disease tends to affect intravenous drug users.
June 21st, 2011 |
Hepatitis A Fast Facts, Hepatitis B Fast Facts, Hepatitis C Fast Facts
Viral hepatitis got some much-needed attention from the National Prevention Strategy announced by government health insiders this week. The NPS is a call to action for all levels of government as well as private businesses. It highlights a need for comprehensive prevention and treatment of a number of conditions.
Specifically, the strategy draws attention to the need for:
- Increased funds for STD testing facilities and birth control programs;
- Education for all ages about preventing and treating STDs;
- Prevention of drug abuse, a major contributor to the spread of viral hepatitis;
- Increased funds for affordable housing;
- Prevention of domestic violence; and
- Promotion of mental health.
A Small Win for Viral Hepatitis
In recent months, increased viral hepatitis infection rates have led some health workers to label it “the silent epidemic.” Though viral hepatitis affects about five times as many Americans as HIV, the latter gets more than 70 times more funding from the federal government.
And it’s a silent disease that’s fairly easy to treat if caught early with an STD test. But because few people have symptoms of viral hepatitis until later stages of the illness, treatment remains a challenge.
June 20th, 2011 |
Hepatitis C Treatment
Coffee can make treatment for hepatitis C more effective, says a new study from the American Gastroenterological Association. Specifically, the numbers show that drinking three or more cups of java per day can improve people’s responses to traditional treatments for hepatitis C.
Researchers were inspired by coffee’s known ability to lower liver cancer rates among drinkers and so set up the experiment. The findings showed:
Coffee drinkers had 73% early positive response to drugs (compared to 46% non-drinkers).
Sustained response to drugs happened in 26% of java sippers, but only 11% of abstainers.
What’s Involved in Treatment for Hepatitis?
Hepatitis C is a virus. A hepatitis test will show whether it’s ever been in the body, since it lingers in most people. Treatment involves taking drugs that prevent symptoms and attempt to delay liver complications.
Partly because the disease may not show symptoms for a long time, treatment for hepatitis C has been traditionally finicky, with only about 51% of patients responding to drugs. But two new drugs on the market could mean a much higher success rate in the near future.
One final note: STD testing is not the only way to determine whether you’re infected with hepatitis C. In fact, this disease is only sometimes spread by sexual contact; more often, infected needles (from tattoos or drug injection) are the culprit.
If you get an STD test for hepatitis, it’s likely for hepatitis B, which is generally considered an STD.