Hepatitis C Statistics & Treatment
Hepatitis C Statistics
Approximately three percent of the world’s population (130-175 million are chronically infected with hepatitis C more than 350,000 dying annually). Those with HCV may end up with 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.
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. Needle stick 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 three weeks.
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
Roughly 70-80 percent of people have no symptoms; however, some symptoms are very mild and others are severe.
The more severe symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- 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
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.
What is Hepatitis C and Why Should You Care?
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.
The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.