By Dr. Diego Lopez de Castilla
Receiving a hepatitis C diagnosis can be alarming — news about an infectious disease is never welcome. But for some patients, the social perception of being diagnosed with hepatitis C can be more damaging than the virus itself. It can be particularly scary because not everyone understands what it means to have hepatitis C, and many misconstrued perceptions exist about how the disease is transmitted.
While many assume that hepatitis C is only spread through heavy drug use, it’s important to know that people have contracted the disease from regular activities like getting a tattoo or receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. In some cases, it can take just one encounter of unprotected sexual activity or drug use from decades past to become ill with the virus, as well.
That’s why it’s important we work toward destigmatizing a treatable disease like hepatitis C. The virus — an infection that attacks and inflames the liver, spread by an infected person’s blood — is not always easily detected, and if left untreated it can lead to dangerous health concerns.
The good news is that it’s completely treatable and preventable. To prevent the chances of contracting hepatitis C, practice safe sex; don’t share items like needles or razors; and confirm that the equipment used at your tattoo parlor have met sanitation standards.
Additionally, recent national efforts have encouraged people born between 1945 and 1965 to get tested for hepatitis C, as people born during this time are five times more likely than other adults to be infected with the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you suspect you’ve been infected with hepatitis C, take precautionary measures and get tested right away. Several medications have recently become available to treat the disease, and your provider can work with you to determine the best treatment plan for you.
Who should get tested for hepatitis C?
Current or former injection drug users
Those living with HIV/AIDS
Individuals who have had abnormal liver tests or liver disease
Anyone who received donated blood or organs before 1992
Patients born between 1945 and 1965
For more information on prevention, symptoms and treatment of hepatitis C, please visit www.evergreenhealth.com/hepatitis-c.
Diego Lopez de Castilla, MD, MPH is an infectious disease and travel medicine specialist at EvergreenHealth Infectious Disease Care. He specializes in treating HIV medicine and co-infections, hepatitis C, tropical diseases, infections in the immunocompromised patient, bone, soft tissue and post-operative infections. He has successfully treated over 100 patients with chronic hepatitis C and is an expert in the prevention and treatment of infections.