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What you should know about the hepatitis virus

GLENN ELLIS | 5/29/2017, 9:07 a.m.
Your liver is the largest organ inside your body. It helps your body digest food, store energy and remove poisons. ...
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We are also finding that due to the opioid epidemic that is plaguing the country, the U.S. rate of maternal HCV infections has nearly doubled between 2009-2014, according to the CDC. Needless to say, this is creating a serious threat to the health of these women, but also to their babies. A baby has about a 6 percent chance of contracting hepatitis C if their mother has it. Researchers estimate that 23,000 to 46,000 children in the United States are infected with hepatitis C.

In this light, we must acknowledge the role of social determinants of health: Overall, women with HCV at the time of live birth had an increased risk of having a high school education or less, being unmarried, having late or no prenatal care and smoking cigarettes.

Many people live with the hepatitis C virus without even knowing they have it. Hepatitis C, caused by HCV, damages the liver. About 15 to 30 percent of people with the virus clear it without treatment. This is called acute HCV and is rarely associated with life-threatening conditions.

The other 70 to 85 percent of people will develop chronic HCV infection. Chronic hepatitis C is long-term and can lead to permanent liver scarring – or cirrhosis – or liver cancer. Anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of the people who develop chronic hepatitis will develop cirrhosis within 20 years.

Chronic HCV usually has no symptoms. People with chronic HCV may not even know they have it. But once symptoms appear, it means that damage to the liver has already begun.

In June 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug approved to treat all six genotypes of hepatitis C. Treatment options and new drug regimens for hepatitis C are rapidly evolving. If you are diagnosed with hepatitis C, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help you stop it damaging your liver further and to protect others. It’s important to eat a well-balanced diet, as the buildup of fatty deposits in the liver can damage it further.

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.