Hepatitis C: The silent killer
If you were to be asked, “Which fatal disease is the most common blood-bourne illness in this country,” most of us would probably answer Aids. Unlike HIV, hepatitis C, affects more than 4 million Americans, four times more than people with aids. Hepatitis C is mostly transmitted by blood to blood contact, not by sex. In 1992 they began accurately screening for people at risk. before that, anyone having a blood transfusion is at risk. And even scarier than that, 95% of people who are infected, do not know it because the symptoms are so vague. So far, fatigue and depression may be symptoms, explains Kenneth E. Sherman, M.D. director of hepatology & liver transplant medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. “Since the liver doesnt give dramatic signs when it’s being injured by HCV, a lot of people are walking time bombs.” and he adds, “Unlike hepatitis A or B, where your skin turns yellow & your urine gets dark, this illness slowly burns out of your liver.” It can be 10, 20, or even, 30 years before you end up developing signs of end-stage liver disease where your disorientated, vomiting up blood, and having severe abdominal pain. Another startling fact is that the hepatitis C virus may not even show up in your routine blood test. Patients with hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection that never happens to patient’s with hepatitis A, or, B. The long term ramification for the patient with hepatitis C is cirrhosis, or liver cancer, whic is often fatal within a year.
ARE YOU AT RISK FOR HAVING HEPATITIS C?
The typical candidate for this is a person in their 40’s, or 50’s maybe who received a blood transfusion before 1992. But, the findings have also included people having experimentation with IV drug use, or snorting cocaine-(it can cause nasal bleeding which spreads the virus through a shared straw when ingesting the cocaine) Those people are unlikely to divulge that information to their doctors. Nor, is the woman who had the C-section prior to 1992. According to Dr. Sherman, “During the 1980’s, it was common medical practice to hang a bag of blood up during emergence C-sections to keep blood pressure up.” The other scary point is that it is 20 times more likely for you contract HCV virus than the Aids virus. Why? You can easily get the disease by just using an infected person’s razor who nicked his or her skin, then you used it, or borrowing a toothbrush that was used on an infected persons bleeding gums, then on your own gums. Having a place of business that poorley steriizes their medical instruments and doesn’t throw out their used needles, is a place you need to report & stay away from.
SO WHAT’S BEING DONE?
Not horrifying enough to think it’s out there, but the fact that not nearly enough has been done There is no vaccine for hepatitis C as there is for A & B. In 1999, the FDA finally ordered blood banks and hospitals to alert people of HCV-infected blood by March 23, 2000.There is a desperate need for additional research and funding. According to the National Institute of Health, the federal government’s research in Bethesda MD, spent $25 million on combating hepatitis C, compared to using $1.8 billion for AIDS. That’s literally allowing 10,000 people a year to die neeedlessly because of that. An HCV researcher at the University of Texas, William M Lee states: “Because government support for studies is so low, the drug companies are driving hepatitis C research, and the focus is on bringing new products to the market, not on basic science. The one major advance for this treatment was the introduction to Rebetron. It’s a combination of ribavirin and interferon alpha that was approved in 1998. They are still a long way to finding the cure.
IMPORTANT STEPS TO TAKE
If you’ve had a transfusion prior to 1992, or have ever used IV drugs, then make sure to get yourself tested. Avoid contact with anything that could be contaminated with blood. Dn’t share razors, toothbrushes, or manicure tools. If you are getting your ears pierced or having a tatoo put on, make sure they sterilize and dispose of used needles. If you have HCV, avoid any kind of alcohol. It is so toxic for a person with this disease. Also, it’s in your best interest, to find a support group that you can talk to. There are people like you, also going through this, that needs personal support. When you’re ready, call the Hepatitis Foundation International @800-891-0707.