What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is an viral infection that targets your liver. There are approximately 3.5 million individuals in the US that are infected. Initially the disease usually is silent, though it may progress to very unspecific symptoms. This can include nausea, headaches, weakness, or stomach pain. If left untreated, it can cause serious damage to your liver, including cancer, or cirrhosis.
How is Hepatitis C transferred from one person to another?
In order for an infected individual to pass it on, there must be some direct contact of the blood to another individual. The usual ways of transmission include used needles which can either come from injecting drugs, or from a dirty tattoo parlor. In very rare cases health workers can accidentally puncture their own skin with the needle of an infected individual.
Who should be screened for Hepatitis C?
According to the CDC, anybody who was born between the years 1945 to 1965 should be screened once in their lifetime. This recommendation however is not shared by Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American College of Gastroenterology, or the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases who all recommend only screening high-risk individuals. High risk individuals include anyone who has injected drugs intravenously, has gotten a tattoo from an unregulated place, anyone on dialysis for more than 5 years, and anyone who needed a blood transfusion before the year 1992.
Does it work?
Screening individuals with a high risk is extremely effective, and finds that more than 1 in every 20 high risk individuals are infected. Although there has not been a direct study which compares a population which was screened with a population which wasn’t, there have been studies finding out which screening method is the most effective. An interesting study on self-management (see references for details) showed that knowledge and awareness, when combined with lifestyle changes can have a positive effect on infected individuals health independent of the medication that they may or may not take. Nobody is saying that this is an alternative treatment, but Hepatitis C treatments are not affordable or accessible to everyone at this point in time. That is why knowledge needs to be accessible. However aside from being expensive, the anti-viral treatment today are very effective and when possible should be started immediately on infected individuals.
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Knowledge is power. It’s very important for each of us to understand what our options are, and what evidence supports each option. Preventing diseases before they start is often the most efficient way to be healthy, and this starts by screening for the diseases that are appropriate for us depending on age, gender, and other factors. Download our app to go through a short list of questions, and receive a personalized list of the appropriate screening recommendations for you. More information about each of these tests is provided through the app, so that you can stay informed and educated.
Here are a few studies and references which prove the efficacy of screening and early treatment for Hepatitis C. Feel free to contact us for more information about the matter, we would be happy to provide it for you.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Surveillance Report: Diagnoses of HIV Infection and AIDS in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2009. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2011.
Groessl EJ, Weingart KR, Stepnowsky CJ, Gifford AL, Asch SM, Ho SB. The hepatitis C self-management programme: a randomized controlled trial. J Viral Hepat. 2011;18(5):358-68.
Chou R, Cottrell EB, Wasson N, Rahman B, Guise JM. Screening for Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Adults. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 69. AHRQ Publication No. 12-EHC090-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2012.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for hepatitis C in adults: recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140:462-4.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Clinical Preventive Services: Hepatitis. Leawood, KS: American Academy of Family Physicians; 2004.