Over thousands of years human beings have learnt to fear certain diseases. Hepatitis may not be on the top of this list but Hepatitis C is always somewhere in the upper tier. Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C virus that can be easily transmitted through inadequate sterilization of medical/surgical equipment, infected needles and transfusion of unscreened blood. Unsafe sex can also transmit Hepatitis C virus.
The spread and location of most HCV cases
Almost 150 million people are diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis C infections, each year. Among them almost 700,000 succumb to this deadly viral disease. Although no vaccine has yet been developed for Hepatitis C, there are anti-viral drugs that can cure almost 90% of the affected people.
The disease is most commonly seen in third world countries of Africa and East Asia. It has been noticed that the distribution of the virus depends upon the country. For example – In countries where heroin is a common drug, most people get the disease from use of common needles. In such cases, the disease is more or less limited within the drug abusing population. There are multiple strains of the HCV virus and that can make it a little difficult to detect its presence in the blood.
Why is it difficult to detect HCV infection?
HCV can stay latent for 2 weeks to 6 months post infection. Almost 80% people don’t show any symptoms following immediate infection. Acute Hepatitis C infection manifests as –
- Abdominal pain
- Grey stool
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and sclera of the eyes)
Since HCV infections are often asymptomatic most people go undiagnosed during the acute phase of the disease. There have been a few cases where the affected individual has remained without any symptoms for decades after the initial infection.
Special diagnostic techniques for special cases
Like all viral diseases, HCV cannot be detected by simple light microscopic techniques. More advanced molecular techniques like ELISA and PCR are recommended for accurate detection of the virus in the system. The symptoms are mostly not enough to tell a HCV infection from Jaundice and other forms of Hepatitis.
Accurate diagnosis is required before starting anti-viral therapy. Most people develop chronic HCV infection if treatment starts too late. This can later on lead to cirrhosis and scarring of the liver. HCV infection is one of the predominant causes of liver cancer in the 21st century.
How to prevent a HCV infection?
As we have mentioned before, there’s no preventive vaccine for Hepatitis C. but there are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe –
- Always use a latex condom during intercourse
- Before getting a tattoo or a new piercing check if the needle is new
- Don’t share razors
- Be careful while getting a manicure; the instruments used should be sterilized properly
Today, this infection can be diagnosed successfully by performing multiple, nested serological tests that can directly detect the presence of HCV antigens in the body fluids.
Author Bio: Isabella Rossellinee is a renowned researcher and author who has spent most of her research career studying the distribution of communicable viral diseases. She has stressed on the importance of molecular diagnostic procedures, like elisa test, time and again in her research publications and articles. You can read more about her research on www.mybiosource.com .