Hepatitis C (also known as HCV, Hepatitis C Virus) is a blood borne virus that is transmitted through blood to blood contact, so for an infection to occur blood from the infected person needs to enter the bloodstream of another person.
The majority of transmissions occur as a result of sharing injecting equipment (so sadly the bias against folks you use IV drugs prevents a lot of discourse on Hep C). 90% of Australian HCV folk have contracted it from this method. Other transmission routes include tattoos & piercings before universal precautions were brought in (or from amateurs who don't use safe methods). Also of note is contraction from sharing razors and toothbrushes as these can transmit blood.
Most HCV+ folk I know contracted it before it was known about, at a time when if you were injecting drugs the health message was 'new needle everytime - if you can't then wash with cold water & bleach before sharing'.. the old 2x2x2x method. This method was fantastic for preventing HIV, HIV being a very fragile virus but sadly it did not kill Hep C. so if you are using drugs IV never share injecting equipment. I will endeavour to cover safe injecting procedures in a post soon.
Hep C is not an STI/STD, you cannot contract it from sex, kissing unless there is blood to blood contact, ie rough sex/blood sports, menstration and open sores
There are roughly 10 different genotypes (strains) of Hep C, though some are more common than others. Most Hep C positive folk where I live have type 1 or 3.
There is no immunisation against Hep C.
For mother and baby the risk of transmission is very small,
around 5% of HepC positive mothers will pass it on to their babies. Risk factors include if the mother contracts Hep C while pregnant, already has liver damage or is HIV+ also or if there is blood to blood contact. Some babies will test positive after birth but be negative by 18 months, due to maternal antibodies in there blood stream, similar to babies born to HIV+ mums.
Breastfeeding is considered safe, and encouraged to Hep C mums, but its important for Hep C positive mums to check their nipples and to cease breastfeeding while they have cracked nipples, and resume once healed. In the hospital I worked in if a mum with Hep C got cracked nipples we encouraged her to express to keep up her supply, and cup feed formula (sadly we have no milk banks here) til the cracks healed. For this reason if you are Hep C positive and pregnant I suggest going to LLL/an LC/or other boob gurus to learn about correct attachment to prevent cracked nipples from even occuring.
Estimated outcomes if 100 people are infected with Hep C at the same time
25 will clear the virus naturally within 6 months
of the remaining 75 still Hep C positive
20 will not develop symptoms of liver damage
The remaining 50 will develop some signs of liver damage after approximately 15 years
Of that 50, 5-20 people will develop cirrhosis (liver scarring)
And of those who develop cirrhosis 2-5 people will experience liver failure or cancer 25-50 yrs after infection.
So for all the sensationalist media reports about Hep C being a 'deadly disease' most Hep C positive folk won't die of Hep C, only a very small proportion.
Anecdotally I have heard good reports about Traditional Chinese Medicine but I have very little knowledge of TCM treatments.
Milkthistle is a good liver cleanser and many HCV+ take it.
Some naturopaths have more specialist knowledge than others when it comes to treatments so shop around or ask local Hep C organisations for advice.
As far as conventional medicine is concerned there is Interferon treatment.
Pharmaceutical treatments must be very closely adhered to for success to occur and are known to have many side effects, including depression and many debilitating physical symptoms.
Overall there is a 60% success rate but some genotypes are more successful than others (Type 3 has 80% success rate), so treatment isn't for everyone.
The cost is obviously a factor and sorry but I don't have non-Australian figures. The drugs over here cost $20,000 per year but chances are you can access treatment for around $20 per month under Medicare. The latest treatment option is a once a week injection.
Nutrition is so very important for folk with Hep C.
The liver is the body's filter and fats, salts and sugars require more effort to break down than a healthy balanced diet. So for this reason if you choose to eat a more healthy diet and avoid or minimalise alcohol consumption you will lessen the chances of experincing liver damage.
This is just basic covering of the issue, if you have any questions I will try to look them up for you.
I will say do not trust older publications on their Hep C info, there is a heap of misinformation out there. And I'm not trying to be anti-US or anything but some US sources are known to provide incorrect info on Hep C. I've read an article saying it was spread by kissing!
Anyway, take care and good health to you all.