Hepatitis C has been in the news lately. What exactly is Hepatitis C? Basically, it is an infection that affects the liver. It is typically transmitted from person-to-person via blood. IV drug use, inadvertent needle “sticks” or blood transfusions are the most common forms of transmission. Hepatitis C is generally detected by special blood tests.
A person can have Hepatitis C for a long time without having any real symptoms, but as the condition progresses, noticeable symptoms (i.e., fatigue often occurs) may develop, and the liver can develop cirrhosis.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to guard against the Hepatitis C infection. For people inflicted with the infection, there are some drugs that can be used, but the success with those drugs varies. If a person goes on to develop cirrhosis and it progresses, he or she may ultimately require a liver transplant.
There are many people who live successful and relatively ordinary lives with Hepatitis C, but for others it becomes a significant and chronic problem.
Because it can be transmitted from one person to another via blood, hospitals have to be extremely careful with their safety practices to minimize the chances of the infection being transmitted. Nurses and other staff have to be vigilant to avoid inadvertent needle “sticks,” and hospitals have to be very careful about sterilization of equipment and the integrity of their blood supplies used for transfusions. Agencies involved in soliciting blood donations have to be careful about rejecting high-risk patients (IV drug users would be an obvious example) as donors.