Hepatitis C: The Stealth Disease
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26 May 2010
Tattooing and body piercing with improperly sterlised needles can transmit Hepitis C virus
HEPATITIS C virus (HCV) is often clinically silent, with mild symptoms undetected initially, until it’s at an irreversible stage.
May 19 was observed as World Hepatitis Day. With no preventive vaccine, the symptoms of infection can be controlled medically if HCV is diagnosed early. “A sizeable number of patients are cured by an anti–viral regimen,” says Dr Gadhikar Harshal of Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital. “Patients infected with genotype 1 require 48 weeks of combination treatment, while those with genotype 2 or 3 need a 24week course.”
Caused by a virus present in infected blood, HCV can occur as acute or chronic hepatitis, and is usually detected through a blood test. While 20 per cent of those who get infected may clear the virus naturally from their bodies, in nearly 80 per cent cases, the virus will continue to reside in the liver. The most common risk factor for transmission is drug use via intravenous route, especially by sharing contaminated needles, according to the Indian National Association for the Study of Liver (INASL). The other common means are blood transfusions, unsafe therapeutic injections, including tattooing and body piercing with improperly sterilized needles. Although it does not spread easily sexual intercourse, multiple sexual partners may lead to an increased risk of HCV.