Food & Beverages Articles - A look at Hepatitis C - No vaccine as yet - A silent killer lurks in the dark.

by HAYNES DARLINGTON M.SC. PHARMD. - Date: 2009-06-12 - Word Count: 956 Share This!

The analogy of the swinging sword or even the "The pit and the pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe and the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, are probably too strong a comparison for Hepatitis C, and it certainly will not get the footage and exposure as H1N1 (swine flu), however me thinks this is a force to which our bio-chemists should be paying greater attention. Explanations for the slow work on creating a vaccine (HCV) are explained later in this article. In general, medical doctors, traditionally have taken more precaution to avoid contacting hepatitis C than their cousins, the dentists. It was not until the late eighties that dentists started to wear masks, gloves, splatter glasses and this was driven mostly by the publicity of AIDS.

There are other kinds of viral hepatitis such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E. These diseases and the viruses that cause them are not related to hepatitis C even though they also insult the performance of the liver. They may have other, different symptoms and different modes of transmission. This means that there are different ways of spreading the disease and different means for preventing and controlling precisely these diseases.

Hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Infections of hepatitis C occur only if the virus is able to enter the blood stream and reach the liver. Many compounds can be diverted and excretion without causing clinically significant toxic effect to the liver.

For reasons that are not completely understood, about half of all people who develop hepatitis C never fully recover and can carry the virus for the rest of their lives. These people have chronic hepatitis C, and some may eventually develop cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure.

The hepatitis C virus is spread primarily by exposure to blood. Some people who get hepatitis C do not know how they were infected with the virus.

People may get hepatitis C by sharing needles to inject drugs, through exposure to blood in the workplace, from unsterile equipment used for body piercing, tattoos or acupuncture, exposure to dental or medical practices with poor infection control practices or by sharing personal care items including nail clippers, razors, scissors with infected people. The risk of getting this virus from a blood transfusion is minimal but still exists. All donated blood is now screened for the hepatitis C virus.

Hepatitis C has been transmitted between sex partners and among household members. However, the degree of this risk still needs to be accurately defined. An infected mother can pass HCV to her child at birth.

There is no evidence that hepatitis C virus is spread by casual contact. Sneezing, coughing and hugging do not pose the risk for hepatitis C. In addition, there is no evidence that hepatitis C virus is spread by food or water.

An estimated 270-300 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a strictly human disease. It cannot be contracted from or given to any animal. Chimpanzees are able to carry the disease for lab work, but the animals do not get sick. The inability to perform animal testing has severely limited attempts to study and cure the disease in a nonhuman in vivo environment. No vaccine against hepatitis C is available. The existence of hepatitis C (originally "non-A non-B hepatitis") was postulated in the 1970s and proved conclusively in 1989. It is one of five known hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D, and E.

In the U.S. as of 2008, an estimated 2,500,000 people are infected with HCV. Less than 25 percent of those initially infected have symptoms and 75-85 percent progress to the carrier (chronic) state. It is estimated that 35 percent of those with chronic hepatitis do not know they are infected and may not have symptoms for many years. Rates of hepatitis C between 1999 and 2006 are highest in the 40-59 age group and higher in males than females. The total rate of infection is declining during this period.

Some people who are infected with hepatitis C virus have no symptoms and can infect others without knowing it. These persons are at risk of becoming ill at some time in the future. It has been estimated that it may take 10 years to develop symptoms. The symptoms of hepatitis C infection include fever, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach pain, extreme fatigue, and yellowing of the skin and especially in the eyes of darker skin people(jaundice).

The incubation period (the time between initial contact with the virus and the onset of the disease) for hepatitis C ranges from 2 weeks to 6 months, most commonly 6 to 9 weeks.

The risk of acquiring hepatitis C from the workplace depends on the amount of exposure to human blood or blood products and needle stick injuries. In general, occupational groups with increased risk include workers such as dentists, nurses, and laboratory personnel who are repeatedly exposed to human blood and who are at risk of needle stick injuries.

The common tests for hepatitis C the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, liver function test, the liver biopsy test are the antibody test, When a person becomes infected, the body creates antibodies to protect itself from the virus. However, sometimes a "false negative" test can result if there are not enough antibodies in the blood for the tests to detect accurately. A doctor should also do a complete medical examination and get information about your activities in order to make a clinical diagnosis of hepatitis C.

Additional general information on Universal Precautions is available on this web site.

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Related Tags: liver, hepatitis, blood, cirrhosis, local anesthetics, h1n1

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