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Baby boomers, hepatitis C

GLENN ELLIS | 8/7/2017, 6:18 a.m.
Most of us have seen the commercials on television stating that people born from 1945 to 1965 have the highest ...
Image of the human anatomy highlights the liver. Stock photo

The CDC reports that up to one out of four people who contract the hepatitis C virus will eventually be cured from the condition without treatment. For these people, hepatitis C will be a short-term acute infection that goes away without treatment.

For most people, however, acute hepatitis C will develop into a chronic infection that does require treatment. Since the virus often doesn’t have symptoms until after liver damage has taken place, it’s important to get tested for it if you think you might have been exposed.

In the past, chronic hepatitis C was treated with a combination of ribavirin and interferon. Rather than directly attacking the virus, these drugs worked by strengthening your immune system. The immune system would then kill the virus. The goal of treatment was to rid your body of the virus.

However, since 2011, the Food and Drug Administration has approved many antivirals that attack hepatitis C more directly. These drugs have much better success rates than older treatments.

All of these drug combinations are protease inhibitors. This means they prevent the virus from getting the proteins it needs to reproduce. Over a period of time, usually 12 to 24 weeks, this causes the virus to die out and clear from your system.

For all of the protease inhibitor drugs, the goal of hepatitis C treatment is sustained virologic response, or SVR. SVR means that the amount of hepatitis virus in your system is so low that it can’t be detected 12 weeks after you finish treatment. If you achieve SVR after treatment, you can say that your hepatitis C infection is cured.

And one last note:

Most people with hepatitis C do not know they are infected. Since many people can live with hepatitis C for decades without symptoms or feeling sick, testing is critical so those who are infected can get treated and cured. The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested. A blood test, called a hepatitis C antibody test, can tell if a person has ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. This test looks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

Disclaimer: This column is for informational purposes only. If you have a medical condition or concern, please seek professional care from your doctor or other health professional. Glenn Ellis is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist and is available through http://www.glennellis.com.