By: Paige Blatchford, Pharm.D., Clinical Pharmacist
July 28 marks World Hepatitis Day. This health observance is an important one. It’s one of only four disease-specific global awareness days endorsed by the World Health Organization. Amber Pharmacy is proud to care for patients with hepatitis and in honor of World Hepatitis Day, below are some facts about the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
What is HCV?
HCV is an infectious disease that affects an estimated 2.7-3.9 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It’s a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver and leads to scarring and liver damage, sometimes requiring a liver transplant. It can cause liver cancer and is the number one cause of liver transplants in the United States.
What are the symptoms of HCV?
When people are first infected with HCV they often feel normal. This stage can sometimes last for several years. Common symptoms may include tiredness, fever, nausea or not wanting to eat and soreness on the right side of the belly. After time, some may notice a yellowing of the skin or eyes.
What causes HCV?
The virus is spread when blood containing the virus enters the blood stream. It can be spread by sharing needles or needle stick injuries or by being born to a mother with HCV. It’s also spread through sex or sharing personal items, like a razor or toothbrush. HCV is not spread by hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing or sneezing.
Early diagnosis can prevent the transmission of HCV. People who are at an increased risk of HCV infection include:
- People who use illegal drugs
- People who have unsafe sex
- People living with HIV
- People who have received tattoos or piercings with unclean equipment
Be sure to see your doctor and get tested if you think you’ve been exposed to HCV.
What kind of treatments are there?
There currently is no vaccine for HCV, though treating HCV has greatly improved in recent years with new medications. These new medications consist of oral tablets that have simplified treatment and increase the chances for people with HCV to be cured. Therapy usually lasts an average of 12 weeks with few side effects. Once treatment is finished, the patient’s blood will be tested to check the level of the virus in the blood.
How can HCV be prevented?
There are steps you can take to lessen your risk for HCV infection. This includes:
- Never share needles or injectable devices
- Safe handling and disposal of sharps and waste
- Practicing safe sex
- Choose tattoo and piercing parlors carefully
- Continue to use precaution of transmission while undergoing HCV treatment
The World Health Organization currently has a Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which includes a goal of eliminating HCV in the next 13 years. To help meet this goal, we hope you will take the opportunity to learn more about HCV and get involved in World Hepatitis Day.
If you have HCV, Amber Pharmacy is here to help. Our Hepatitis Center of Excellence offers personalized patient care, access to needed medications and the support necessary to promote medication adherence. Learn more.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/hcvfaq.htm (January, 2017)