Hepatitis C (HCV) is an infectious disease that primarily affects the liver and is transmitted through blood contact. If left untreated, HCV can lead to severe liver damage, cirrhosis, and potentially even liver cancer. It’s important to note that the virus can survive outside the body for up to three weeks at room temperature and on various surfaces. Since HCV screening is not typically included in routine blood tests, it is crucial to inform your healthcare provider about your desire to undergo testing.
How does it spread?
HCV is transmitted through contact between infected blood sources. It can also be transmitted through even a minute quantity of blood that is not visible to the naked eye.
What are the risk factors?
Sharing needles or straws for recreational drug use, sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes, needle stick injuries in healthcare settings, engaging in sexual contact, using unsterilized tattoo equipment, and having received a blood transfusion, organ transplant, or long-term kidney dialysis prior to 1992 are all potential risk factors for certain infections and diseases.
What are the symptoms?
People can live with hepatitis C virus (HCV) for many years, even decades, without experiencing any symptoms. However, once symptoms manifest, it usually indicates significant liver damage has already occurred. Common symptoms of HCV may include fever, fatigue, jaundice, nausea, dark urine, grey-colored bowel movements, loss of appetite, and joint pain.
Can HCV be cured?
Absolutely! Thanks to recent advancements, the cure rate for Hepatitis C is now approximately 95%. However, it is crucial to undergo testing and commence treatment prior to the manifestation of any symptoms. The modern medication for HCV is administered orally and involves the simplicity of taking just one tablet per day, resulting in minimal side effects.
What can I do?
Stay informed and find out if you or someone you care about should undergo testing. Getting tested is a quick and easy process that not only ensures your own health but also the well-being of others.
What happens if I’m positive?
If you receive a positive HCV test result, your healthcare provider will schedule a follow-up appointment for additional blood work. Once the lab results are available, your healthcare provider will develop a personalized treatment plan that suits your needs. You will also receive counseling regarding the medication prescribed, including instructions on how to take it and the significance of adhering to the treatment plan. After completing the treatment, you will have a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider after three months to confirm that you are HCV-free and consider yourself cured!
What does treatment cost?
If you have insurance: Despite the high cost of HCV treatment, private insurance generally covers the majority of expenses. Additionally, with the assistance of co-pay programs and medical foundations, most individuals pay minimal to no cost for their treatment.
If you are uninsured: There are Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) available for patients who are uninsured which usually help cover most of the cost.
If you have Medicaid: Medicaid coverages vary by state and the stage of the disease. Some states do cover most of the cost.
Even if you are not personally at risk, according to the statistics, it is highly likely that you know someone who is.
By understanding our individual risks and raising awareness among our friends and family members about their own vulnerabilities, we have the power to alter these statistics and put an end to the growing prevalence of Hepatitis C.
HCV is the leading cause of liver cancer
Donated blood was not screened for HCV until 1992
Most people today living with HCV were infected before the virus was even discovered Baby Boomers are 5 times more likely than other age groups to have HCV
1 in 30 baby boomers (1945–1965) has HCV and most don’t know it
Among women, HCV increased by 250%
The 18-29 age group is the fasted growing for new HCV infections
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