Hepatitis C: The slow and silent infection

Hepatitis C: The slow and silent infection

According to WHO, 80 percent of deaths due to liver cancer have been caused by Hepatitis C. Nearly 1 million people have been killed by this disease. It is estimated that approximately 3 million people in the US are affected by the Hepatitis C virus. In most cases, Hepatitis C goes undetected, until a critical stage is reached. By this time, it is too late to take any preventive or remedial measures.

Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that infects the liver and spreads through the blood. It usually spreads through contaminated syringes or by the sharing of injections and through transfusion of blood, which might not have been tested for Hepatitis C virus. There have been cases of the Hepatitis C virus spreading sexually and also from an infected mother to her infant. However, these are very uncommon instances of the transmission of this virus. Hepatitis C virus does not spread through casual contact or sharing food with an infected person. The virus also does not spread through breast milk, food, or water.

Hepatitis C virus usually takes about two weeks to six months to manifest any discernible symptoms. The symptoms are quite generic: fever, reduced appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, joint pain, jaundice, and so on. These symptoms are quite common with other diseases like flu, diarrhea, jaundice, and so on. Hence, it becomes quite difficult to detect the Hepatitis C virus. After the first infection, it has been observed that nearly 80 percent of the patients do not show any symptoms of infection.

Since in majority of the cases, the virus remains undetected and undiagnosed for a long time, it has been labelled as a slow and silent killer by medical experts and professionals. The initial phase is called as acute Hepatitis C. In this stage, the infected person exhibits mild symptoms, which can be caught by an alert medical practitioner. However, in most cases, patients go from acute to chronic stage without any substantial diagnosis.

The chronic stage is when the liver gets infected to a greater degree. Sometimes, this may take decades after the initial infection. The virus hits the immune system hard. Although treatment in the chronic stage is not impossible, it does become difficult to completely eliminate the strain of the virus from the body. After elimination, it has to be ensured that the patient does not relapse. With consistent progress in the R&D of this virus, affordable and accessible treatment of the disease has now become possible.

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