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Hepatitis C, more commonly known as HCV is a viral infection of the liver. It is the most common liver disease worldwide. Also known as the 'silent epidemic', Hepatitis C could have infected a patient for years before actually being discovered. HCV is one of the strains of the Hepatitis virus whose list goes from A through G.

The Hepatitis C virus attacks the liver. It keeps on multiplying, killing the surrounding tissue. The immune system fights back, usually causing reactions such as inflammation and fibrosis of the liver. If not detected and treated in time, it could lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis.

It is estimated that approximately 1.8 percent of the American population is infected by HCV which is a major cause of chronic liver diseases including liver cancer and cirrhosis. Almost 80 percent of those infected by HCV will develop chronic infection. Out of this approximately 20% will develop liver cirrhosis and 5% will develop liver cancer.

How is Hepatitis C Transmitted
There are many ways in which the Hepatitis C virus can spread or be transmitted.
  • The main route for the spread of the Hepatitis C virus is through blood.
  • Blood transfusion that is not screened for the Hepatitis C virus.
  • Reuse of improperly sterilized needles.
  • Reuse of the same needle by drug users.
  • Improper sterilization when equipment is reused for ear piercing, nose piercing, body piercing, and circumcision.
  • Improper sterilization of equipment used for dental procedures.
  • People who have multiple sexual partners and have unprotected sex.
  • Barbers using unsterilized shaving equipment and using the same blade on more than one person.
  • Acupuncture using unsterilized needles.
  • Sharing razors, nail clippers, nail files, and toothbrushes at home.
  • Transmission from infected mother to newborn child (approximately 5 percent).
Prevention
There are certain precautions that one can take to avoid being infected by the Hepatitis C virus.
  • Whenever a syringe is to be used on you, make sure that it is the disposable type and has never been used before.
  • If you have to receive blood from a donor, always make sure that it has been screened for the Hepatitis C virus.
  • When having sex with an unknown partner always make sure that you use protection.
  • Whenever you have your dentist put any foreign object into your mouth, make sure that it has been sterilized.
  • Make sure that your barber sterilizes shaving equipment and changes the blade before being used on you.
  • While undergoing acupuncture, make sure that the needles are well sterilized.
  • Make your own personal razor, nail clipper, nail file, and toothbrush at home. Never share these with anyone.
How is the Hepatitis C Virus Not Transmitted
The Hepatitis C virus is not spread or transmitted by the following factors as is commonly perceived.
  • Food
  • Water
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Casual contact
  • Sharing utensils and drinking glasses
Precautions to Take
Hepatitis C at times goes undetected for years, during which time it could have caused considerable liver damage. Once you are aware that you have the Hepatitis C virus you should take appropriate measures to protect your liver.
  • Stop alcohol use immediately.
  • Visit your physician for regular check-ups.
  • Never take any medication on your own without the prior consent of your physician; not even over-the-counter medication.
  • Ask your physician for the best diet so as to keep the load on the liver to a minimal.
Following all this may not help you get rid of the virus entirely, but will ensure that you live a better and healthier life.