Raymond T. Chung
“You cannot tell if someone has hepatitis C just by looking at them. Hepatitis C is known as a silent disease…”
1. Hepatitis C cannot be cured
A diagnosis of hepatitis C can be frightening, especially if you’ve heard that it is not curable. Not long ago, this was a true statement. However, today, hepatitis C is curable for the vast majority of people who undergo treatment. In fact, over 95 percent of people with hepatitis C can be cured with an 8 to 12-week once-a-day pill treatment with very few if any side effects.
2. You can’t tell someone has hepatitis C just by looking at them
You cannot tell if someone has hepatitis C just by looking at them. Hepatitis C is known as a silent disease because people can have the virus for years before they start showing symptoms. Those symptoms include: loss of appetite, fatigue, and yellowing of the eyes and skin. This is why hepatitis C screening is so important for those who have been exposed or who are considered high-risk.
3. Hepatitis C spreads through casual contact
It is highly unlikely to contract hepatitis C through casual contact – such as shaking hands, hugging, sharing eating utensils, kissing or sharing a bed – with an infected person. Hepatitis C is transmitted when a person comes in direct contact with an infected person’s blood or with bodily fluids that contains blood.
This most frequently occurs when using a contaminated needle during drug use. Transmission of the virus can also occur due to accidental needlesticks, birth to an infected mother, unregulated tattooing and piercing and sexual contact.
4. Once you’ve been treated for hepatitis C, you can’t get it again
Being successfully treated for hepatitis C doesn’t make a person immune from becoming reinfected. People who have been successfully treated should discuss with their care provider their risk of reinfection.
5. Baby Boomers shouldn’t be concerned with having hepatitis C
The CDC estimates that 75 percent of people with hepatitis C in the United States are so-called baby boomers (people born between 1945-1965). While there is no definitive explanation for why boomers are at higher risk, it may be due to exposure to contaminated blood during a time period when there weren’t strict standards for sterilizing medical equipment. Because of this, the CDC and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases recommend that all boomers have a one-time test for hepatitis C.
Because hepatitis C can be silent for years before presenting with symptoms, it is important to know your status. If you believe you have been exposed to hepatitis C and are at high-risk for exposure, or you were born between 1945 and 1965, talk to your physician about getting a hepatitis C screening with a simple blood test. With curative therapy now available, that test could save your life.
Raymond T. Chung, M.D., AASLD, [email protected]