Hepatitis C - All You Need to Know

Hepatitis C Statistics

Approximately three percent of the world’s population (from 130–170 million people) suffer from hepatitis C, which is a major cause of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Chronic hepatitis C in the United States is the most common cause of liver related deaths and the cause of liver transplants. The number of deaths is greater than those with HIV, and three million Americans have this disease.

Jaundice

Jaundice causing a yellow cast to the skin.
Jaundice causing a yellow cast to the skin.

How do you get Hepatitis’s C?

Hepatitis C is a virus that lives in the blood of an infected individual.The most common way today is by sharing needles and other equipment to inject drugs. Needlestick injuries that occur in healthcare settings is a way healthcare workers become infected. Pregnant women pass this virus to their baby. While it is less common, sharing personal care items, such as razors or toothbrushes can spread the virus. The risk of transmission from sexual contact is low.

It is possible to get hepatitis C while getting a tattoo or some type of piercing, particularly if the piercing or tattoo is done in an unregulated business with non-sterile instruments. It is not spread through kissing, breastfeeding, coughing or even through food and water.

This virus can exist on environmental surfaces at room temperature, and live for a minimum of 16 hours and possibly up to four days.

Receiving a blood transfusion or any blood product is safe in the U.S. since blood screening began in 1992.

Symptoms of Acute Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a virus that lives in the blood of an infected individual. The most common way today is by sharing needles and other equipment to inject drugs. Needlestick injuries that occur in healthcare settings is a way healthcare workers become infected. Pregnant women pass this disease to their baby. While it is less common, sharing personal care items, such as razors or toothbrushes can spread the virus. The risk of transmission from sexual contact is low.

It is possible to get hepatitis C while getting a tattoo or some type of piercing, particularly if the piercing or tattoo is done in an unregulated business with non-sterile instruments. It is not spread through kissing, breastfeeding, coughing or even through food and water.

This virus can exist on environmental surface at room temperature for a minimum of 16 hours and possibly up to four days.

Receiving a blood transfusion or any blood product is safe in the U.S. since blood screening began in 1992.

Symptoms of

Roughly 70-80 percent of people have no symptoms; however, some symptoms are very mild and others are severe. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • A joint pain
  • Dark colored urine
  • Clay–colored bowel movements
  • Jaundice (Yellow colored skin or in the whites of the eyes)

The typical time that symptoms appear after exposure is six to seven weeks, but this can range from two weeks to six months. Many people do not develop symptom, but.a person without symptoms can still spread this virus to others.

Liver Location in Body

Source

Chronic Hepatitis C

People with the chronic disease do not have symptoms; however, if they have had the disease for years they will have liver damage. This is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, which include liver damage, liver failure or even death. About 15,000 people die annually from related liver disease.

New Generation of Medications

There has been a new generation of antiviral medications that were the result of clinical trials designed to clear this liver-ravaging virus from patient’s bloodstreams in as little as eight weeks. Sovaldi and Olysio are the newest approved medications. These new medication completely suppressed the virus in over 90 percent of the patients.

Sovaldi was just approved by the FDA in December 2013. It cost the company $11 million dollars to develop this medication. This medication is sold by Gilead Sciences Inc. at $1000 per pill and $84,000 for a full treatment regimen, in addition to the cost of companion medicines. The demand for this drug is growing incredibly fast, and it is probably out of reach for someone who has no insurance. It is certainly straining the finances of insurance companies as well. It is also a problem for states that fund Medicaid programs. For instance, Massachusetts spent $10.8 million on Sovaldi in the first three months of this year. California stated that the cost per patient can run from $70,000 to $170,000; therefore, they will treat the sickest individuals first.

Some people in the medical community say that this drug will still reduce long-term medical expenses for people with hepatitis C. The demand for this medication has grown so fast that insurers are restricting which patients can get it immediately. The patients awaiting a liver transplant or ones with advanced disease will get the medication first. Obviously, that seems unfair to those that are less ill, but still suffering.

There is another available 12 week drug regimen, but it has significant side effects. This is a 12 week single tablet regimen of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir. Between 94 percent and 99 percent were cured of hepatitis C. This treatment eliminates interferon and ribavirin from the patient’s prior treatment, which will result in fewer side effects. The side effects from antiviral medications include; fatigue, fever, nausea and headache. There are still times when the side effects become so severe that the treatment is stopped.

The Life Cycle of Hepatites C

In Conclusion

The CDC has recommended that baby boomers born between 1945 in 1965 should be screened for hepatitis C, as so many have silent infections with no symptoms. This is done with a simple blood test.

Hepatitis C is a serious illness, but you can have this virus for many years without symptoms. Eventually the virus will attack the liver, so your physician will start antiviral medications to prevent liver damage. These new medications are going to save thousands of lives, but more research needs to be done so the cost to the patient is reasonable.

© 2014 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 38 comments

mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

This Hub is very timely for me because my 18 yr. old adopted son was recently diagnosed with Hep C. He was tired all the time: that was the only symptom he had. His mother had Hep C when she was pregnant with him.

Thanks to Obama, I was able to get him health ins even with the preexisting health problem (I could not get him insurance before).

We are in the process now of finding out whether or not the ins. co. will pay for his pills. The complete treatment will cost $150,000!

Voted up and shared on Google+ also.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Mary, It is hard to believe that any treatment should cost that much. I am glad to hear a positive story about Obamacare because I am sure you could not have gotten insurance otherwise. I sure hope they cover the expense. I wish you and your son the best. Thanks so much for your comments.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Interesting article, Pamela. I read that the highest number of cases reported are in China (1.6 million), the United States (1.5 million), and Russia (1.3 million). I had no idea it was that widely spread.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

PegCole, I was also surprised that more people had hepatitis than HIV. When you think of 130-170 million people around the world, I guess not many countries would be free of this disease. Thanks for your comments.


Lizolivia profile image

Lizolivia 2 years ago from Central USA

Informative and timely hub. People with type A hep c have anxiously been waiting for a better treatment for over a decade. The combo Interferon with Ribavirin was effective for some types, but it left other types as non-responders and very ill from the treatment. Health maintenance thru alternative, natural and nutritional methods helps keep the viral load down, however, it isn't as quick and effective as fighting the virus with a drug.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Lizalivia, You sound like you really know a lot about threatment for these diseases, and I appreicate your comments. I read the Interferon and Ribavirin can also have a lot of side effects for some people. I didn't address natural methods, as it is so diffiucult to find proven studies online. Thanks again for your comments.


midget38 profile image

midget38 2 years ago from Singapore

Wow!!i I am glad I got myself immunized. I'm sharing this!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Midget, I think the number of people with hepatitis is mind blowing and certainly in immunization is a good idea. Thank you so much for the share and the comments.


Lizolivia profile image

Lizolivia 2 years ago from Central USA

My fiance of 18 yrs rec'd blood for injuries in late 80's and was diagnosed in 2001 with type A hep c. Underwent combo treatment twice and became very ill from it and was a non-resonder. He and his liver specialist doctor were considering a third time, but he opted out in concern of the adverse effects. Less than 2 wks ago, he started the Sovaldi Olysio treatment.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Lizolivia, I am glad he has assess to this new treatment as the success rate is so high. I truly hope he is healed. Thanks for sharing your experience.


Lizolivia profile image

Lizolivia 2 years ago from Central USA

Your welcome! Good hub title!!!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Lizolivia, Thanks.


epbooks profile image

epbooks 2 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Very educational explanation. I had always heard of this, but never really knew what it was.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

epbooks, I am glad you found the hub educational. Thank you for your comments.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi Pamela, this was interesting reading, purely because a friend of mine was diagnosed with it a few years ago, and even she wasn't sure exactly what it meant, how she caught it and why etc, so we had to look into it together, voted up and shared, nell


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Nell Rose, I'm glad you found the hub interesting and I hope the friend is doing well. I appreciate your comments and the share.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Pamela, this is a great way to spread awareness. I didn't know the statistics were so high. It's good that the treatment is available but the cost seems exorbitantly high, thank goodness for the NHS this side of the pond. Voting up and sharing.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Jo, I was surprised that the statistics were so high when I was researching the disease. Thank you so much for your comments and the share. I appreciate your stopping by.


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

I just came back to reread your Hub, and to share our additional info. My son's Dr. informed the ins. Co of the treatment (combination of the Sovaldi and Olysio) he wanted to give to my son. The Ins. co. will NOT pay for his treatment. I am not surprised. There is a growing concern now that even though people can obtain insurance for preexiting conditions, they may not be able to get the treatment they need.

Dr. says a new treatment is coming out in the Fall, and we should wait until then to pursue any treatment.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Pamela, thank you this very useful article on Hepatitis C. I remember hearing a doctor warn years ago that while people were giving the HIV virus all the attention, Hepatitis C was silently building up to a pandemic. Voted Up!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Mary, I hope there is a new treatment. I think it is terrible to not treat someone when you have insurance, especially a young person. Another thing that really makes me angry is you can often buy dome drugs in other countries for a fraction of the price they cost in the U.S. I don't know if that is true for these medications, but I wish the very best outcome for your son. Thanks for sharing the information concerning your situation. I wish I had a solution for you, but I don't.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

MsDora, Yes, I remember the same thing, and now it is a huge problem. Thank you so much for your comments.


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

I just read a magazine article (can't remember which magazine cause I read so many articles about Hep C) comparing the cost of treatment here to other countries. India had the lowest cost of different countries: $2,000.00 versus $150,000.00 in the US!! They compared using the same two preferred drugs used here.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Mary, I have heard that so many times. It would almost be cheaper to travel and get the medicine at a reasonable price. I believe the governments of these other countries will not use the drugs unless they are reasonably priced. That is just a guess, but we sure get ripped off. I know this totally frustrates you but it doesn't surpirse me.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa

So scary to know we can have a virus without any symptoms! Thanks, Pamela, for this most interesting hub about Hepatitis C :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Martie, That is sure true. I am glad you found the hub interesting and I appreciate your comments.


yourhealthmatters 2 years ago

Thank you for writing this informative and timely article. I hope that someday the new anti-retrovirals may be more accessible to everyone who would benefit from early treatment.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

yourheakthmatters, I certainly hope so. The price sounds rediculously high for the bulk of the people. Thank you so much for your comments.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

Well presented and full of great knowledge Pamela. Voting up and thanks for sharing.

Eddy.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Eddy, I am glad you found this information interesting. I always appreciate your comments.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Good research and good information. Those are some pretty high statistics. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of this disease.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Rebecca, I am glad you found this information useful. Thanks for your comments.


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

Just wanted to update you about my son with HepC. As I said before, the Ins. Co. denied paying for his treatment. Their reason: these drugs are still in the experimental stage! How ridiculous is that?? That treatment is now the preferred treatment doctors are using (for those lucky enough to be able to afford the treatment!

Many people are being denied by the Ins.cos. They don't want to have to pay $150,000 for treatment!

I have joined many groups of people on the internet who have Hep C, and they are all saying the same thing.

I am thinking of cancelling the insurance on him: what good is it, anyway?


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Mary, I can't even imagine how frustrated you must be, as well as, all those other people. I am sorry to hear that. Unfortunately,if you were low icncome you could probably quality for the medicine for free by applying directly to the company. Many pharmaceutical companies have those types of programs. The only thing about canceling the insurance is if something else should happen, he wouldn't be covered. I wish I knew how to help you and I sure hope there will be some way for him to get coverage before he becomes more ill.

I am glad wrote me about what happened.If I hear of anything that I think could be helpful I will let you know. I'll pray for your son too. I hope that is okay.


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

I am definitely low income. These two drug companies will offer some help with those drugs; however, it is not enough. There is another treatment coming out this Fall that is supposed to cost much less than these two approved drugs. Our Dr. says we should wait and see what the cost of that treatment will be. Right now, we are in a "wait and see" mode.

I appreciate your concern, and yes if you hear of anything that would be helpful, please let me know by email. I' d certainly appreciate your prayers, too.

Thanks again, Mary


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Mary, I am glad you have checked into ways to get this medication as I had so many medical bills about two years ago, I was able to quality for help from two companies and paid nothing for some medication when I was in my medicate gap. I hope the new drug will be the answer.

My prayers are with you.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

We live in amazing times as medical care continues to evolve at a fast rate. Being able to get help for conditions people died painful deaths from in the past is a blessing, but patients have to be wary and they or their advocates need to keep a watchful eye on costs, side effects, whether caregivers are doing their jobs right, and more. Sometimes side effect risks must be taken and then dealt with after the life is saved, but it is important to be aware of them so they can be recognized for what they are.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

R Talloni, That is so true. Every medicine has some side effects, anf you have to decide sometimes if it is worthwhile. Obviously, if is is a life saving situation you will peobably take the risk.Thanks so much for your words of wisdom. Much appreciated.

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