Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, and there are several kinds of hepatitis. Hepatitis C can lead to complications if left untreated. The good news is that Hepatitis C is curable.
Annually on World Hepatitis Day, July 28, there are activities around the world that increase awareness about screening, prevention, and treatment collaboration and coordination of Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
Dr. Cassandra Youmans, an LSU Health associate professor of Clinical Medicine who treats Hepatitis B and C patients at University Medical Center, answers some frequently asked questions about Hepatitis C.
How common is Hepatitis C?
It is estimated that over 3 million people within the United States are currently infected with Hepatitis C. The exact number is not known because most people have no symptoms, and without any symptoms they do not know that they have the infection. In fact, now the CDC recommends one-time Hepatitis C testing of all adults 18 and older and all pregnant women with each pregnancy. The CDC continues to recommend screening of all higher risk individuals.
How is Hepatitis C transmitted?
The Hepatitis C virus is transmitted through exposure to infected blood or blood products. Those at higher risk include:
- People who inject intravenous drugs (80% of all newly infected Hepatitis C)
- People with tattoos, or piercings
- People who received blood transfusions or organs before 1992
- People who received clotting factors made before 1987
- People who have chronic kidney disease on dialysis
- People born between 1945 – 1966 (Baby Boomers). Baby Boomers are 5 times more likely to be affected than any other generation. Baby Boomers account for roughly 75 out of every 100 adult patients with Hepatitis C.
- People with history of multiple sexual partners
How is Hepatitis C diagnosed?
Since most Hepatitis C patients may have little to no symptoms, your blood must be tested (screened) by your health care provider for infection. You will also be checked if you donate blood or other blood products.
Why is diagnosing and treating Hepatitis C important?
Hepatitis C the leading cause for liver transplantation and liver cancer. Hepatitis C can also cause cirrhosis (severe scaring) of the liver if not treated early.
What is Chronic Hepatitis C?
Let’s pretend that you are in a room with 100 people who are newly infected with Hepatitis C. Fifteen out of the 100 will have an immune system strong enough to remove the virus completely from their body; unfortunately, 85 out of the 100 will not clear the virus. Those 85 people in which the virus did not clear have Chronic Hepatitis C.
Can Chronic Hepatitis C be effectively treated?
The great news is yes! The Hepatitis C virus can be safely and effectively removed from the body with medication that is taken by mouth. Depending on the medication used, treatments can range from 2 - 3 months.
How can I decrease my risk of acquiring Hepatitis C?
- Avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, and needles
- Get screened if you are at higher risk
- Practice safe sex
- Use Professional licensed tattoo and piercing artist
Where can I get tested for Hepatitis C?
- Your primary care provider
- When donating blood or blood products
- Schedule a test with our Hepatitis C Patient Navigator Adrien at 504-702-5382, or Hepatitis C Navigator Nurse Sheila 504-702-5207
Dr. Youmans has practiced Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in urban and rural communities, private, governmental, academic, and public health environments for over 20 years. Dr. Youmans’ career has been dedicated to improving access to culturally sensitive, evidenced based, quality healthcare for all.Her administrative career includes serving as the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Division of Public Health Region 1 Medical Director from 2004 -2006, where she served as an incident commander to one of the largest special needs shelters during Hurricane Katrina. She later became the District Health Director for the Georgia East Central Public Health District prior to her return to New Orleans in 2007 to serve as the Medical Director of Ambulatory Care Services at the LSU Health Interim Public Hospital. Dr. Youmans obtained a Doctorate of Medicine from the USC School of Medicine in Columbia, SC in 1987. She earned a Masters of Science in Health Care Management from the University of New Orleans in 2004, and a Masters of Public Health from the LSUHSC School of Public Health in 2005.