Hepatitis C

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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C has been referred to as a "Silent Epidemic," since it usually progresses
slowly over many years. Most people who are infected with hepatitis C are not aware of any
noticeable symptoms for as long as one to two decades after they are infected. In fact, by
the time symptoms appear, the virus has probably already begun to damage the liver. If the
liver is injured and stops functioning, death will always be the outcome (Lieber). Liver
failure from chronic hepatitis C is one of the most common causes of liver transplants in
the United States.

Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver's cells and tissues caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Hepatitis C virus is blood-borne, which means it is spread through blood and blood
products (Grady). After the discovery of hepatitis A virus in 1973 and hepatitis B in
1963, any cases of acute or chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis without identifiable causes
were placed into the category of non-A non-B (NANB) hepatitis(Palmer108) . In 1989, a
major breakthrough regarding this mysterious and intriguing disease occurred, the
hepatitis C virus was identified. Now, most hepatitis C viruses are believed to be the
viruses responsible for about 90 percent of all cases of NANB.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.8% of
the U.S. population, or 3.9 million Americans, have been infected with this chronic
blood-borne virus. About 50,000 new cases of hepatitis C are estimated to occur in the
United States each year. Without proper and effective treatment the death rate is expected
to triple in the next fifteen years (Turkington 9). Seventy-five percent of those infected
with the virus will develop chronic hepatitis and half of those people will develop
cirrhosis of the liver

Due to the fact that Hepatitis C is blood-borne there are many ways a person can contract
HCV, and many types of people who are more prone to it than others. The most effective
mode of transmission is when an infected persons blood gets into the bloodstream of
another person. HCV can only enter the bloodstream by first getting through the protective
covering skin, this is called percutaneous route. Common routes of infection include
needle stick accidents among healthcare workers, shared needles that are used during body
piercing, injecting illegal drugs, and tattooing (Turkington 19).

Another common way is through blood transfusions. Since labs did not start testing blood
for the hepatitis C virus until 1990 many people received contaminated blood (Turkington
19). After 1992 blood banks began screening the blood for the hepatics C virus. According
to Dr. Palmer on page 117 she states, that it has been estimated by the Center for Disease
Control (CDC) that almost 300,000 Americans have contracted HCV prior to the advent of
screening of donated blood and blood product for HIV.

Today, the incidence of obtaining this virus by receiving a blood transfusion is
approximately 1 in 200,000 units of blood donors. In essence, the likelihood of contacting
HCV from blood transfusion has been minuscule since 1992. The reason that this small risk
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