Hepatitis C virus stays in human body for years and even for a lifetime
Doctor from Moscow's clinical hospital #15 Alhares Heirbek talks about hepatitis and prevention of the disease
- Is the risk to catch hepatitis C higher than risks to catch other diseases?
The virus of hepatitis C is more frequent than that of hepatitis B. Some experts say there are about 500 million people infected with hepatitis C today; 200 million of them are not mere carriers of the virus but are infected.
- What are the ways to catch hepatitis C?
The virus usually transmits through blood; many drug addicted persons are infected with hepatitis C. People dealing with donors and blood transfusion often catch the disease too. The virus can be transmitted with spittle, sweat, tears and genital secretion through wounded skin or mucous membranes. Young women form a risk group as they may get infected with hepatitis C when visiting hairdresser's and beauty shops if they use non-sterile tools. From this point, women should be careful when they go to beauty shops to have manicure, hair style, epilation or tattoo.
-Is hepatitis C particularly dangerous?
In 80 percent of cases the disease proceeds secretly and reveals no symptoms. With 70-80 percent of patients infected with hepatitis C acute hepatitis develops into chronic one, which in its turn often develops into cirrhosis and liver cancer. What is more, doctors do not have yet important knowledge and safe protection from the disease. Today, medicine already has reliable methods to diagnose the disease and effective medicine to cure it.
- Why does hepatitis C almost always develop into chronic one?
This happens because of the virus's peculiarities. When getting to the organism, it behaves the same way as other similar viruses do and attacks liver. At that, the hepatitis A virus gets out of the organism as soon as it achieves the goal, but the hepatitis C virus will stay in the organism within several years or even for the whole life. The virus became invulnerable because it may easily change its form and continue to destroy liver.
- Do people feel anything at that?
It often happens so that doctors reveal hepatitis C during other checkups. It may also proceed together with jaundice and resemble the classical hepatitis. Jaundice is a serious disease as well but at least it is easier to reveal it; it seldom develops into a chronic form. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to say how hepatitis C may become apparent: people may feel weakness, get tired easily, have poor appetites and muscular pains. As a rule, people do not take such symptoms seriously; if they visit doctors the disease is diagnosed as respiratory infection or something else.
- What are the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C?
People infected with hepatitis C feel weakness and lethargy within several years; it is just in 10-15 years that the disease comes out. In addition to weakness patients have pain in the right subcostal area and lose too much flesh. Medical examination reveals that liver is enlarged; blood tests prove that something is wrong with liver. Then, patients will reveal all signs typical of cirrhosis: water accumulation in the stomach, bleeding and intoxication.
- What methods does modern medicine use to diagnose the disease?
There are no general checkups to reveal patients diseased with hepatitis C in this country. Only people belonging to the risk group or those who are suspected of the disease undergo special blood tests. Blood tests demonstrate if there are antibodies to the virus in blood. At that, all medical methods cannot help to say if the disease is progressing too far. Biochemical blood tests determine to what extent liver cells are damaged with a patient.
- Can the serious disease be cured?
Doctors say that 60 per cent of patients successfully recover if medical treatment was started before hepatitis C developed into a chronic form. Successful treatment of chronic hepatitis C is registered just in 20-30 per cent cases. At that, women, especially young ones, undergo medical treatment more successfully than men. Many medicines have been developed recently to fight the virus. But antiviral medicines depress brain activity. That is why treatment must be done together with blood tests. Acute hepatitis C requires 3-month medical treatment while the chronic form – 12 month-treatment. Together with the medicines, doctors will prescribe to follow a diet.
- How can people prevent the dangerous disease or protect themselves in case they communicate with people infected with hepatitis C?
Be careful and do not risk for nothing. Attend only reliable beauty shops and licensed medical institutions. Personal hygiene must be in the focus in families with diseased people. Unfortunately, doctors offer no vaccine against hepatitis C now, but they hope the problem will be solved in the nearest future.