Hepatitis C In The Elderly

By Mark Brownstein, 8:00 am on

According to the World Health Organization, over 150 million people are chronically infected with the Hepatitis C virus. In the United States, it is estimated that 3.2 million people have some form of Hepatitis infection. The scary part is most people don’t even know they are infected because they don’t look or feel sick.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. It is the name of a family of viral infections known as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Hepatitis A is considered an acute virus, short in duration, typically severe but not chronic. People with Hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also appear as acute infections, but in some people, the virus can stay in the body undetected and result in a chronic disease. While there are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B, there is not one for Hepatitis C.

The Danger of Hepatitis C Virus

The Hepatitis C virus, also known as HCV, is by far the most dangerous of the three viruses. HCV symptoms usually appear as a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after being exposed to the virus. But for many, the acute infection leads to chronic HCV. Chronic HCV can last a lifetime and lead to serious problems, including scarring of the liver or even liver cancer.

Contracting HCV

The Hepatitis C virus is transmitted though contact with the blood of an infected person. The most common way is sharing needles through injection of drugs, needlestick injuries in an unsanitary health care environment or being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C.

Symptoms of Hepatitis

Roughly 70%-80% of people with acute HCV do not show any symptoms. Symptoms can appear up to 6-7 weeks after exposure. Mild to serious symptoms include

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Fever
  • Joint Pain

 Concerns about Hepatitis C in the Elderly

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Many seniors infected with HCV do not show any symptoms while the virus is quietly attacking their liver.  Sterilization of medical equipment has become mandatory in hospitals and health care facilities across the world. However there is a large population of seniors that are unaware they are at risk for Hepatitis C from exposure to unsanitary health care environments in the past.  Prior to the 1960’s, doctors were using non-disposable syringes and it wasn’t until 1992 that blood screening became available for recipients of donated blood, blood products and organs. It is important for the older generation to get tested, if you were born before 1965, doctors recommend being tested for Hepatitis C. The sooner it is diagnosed, the better opportunity you have to prevent serious damage to your liver.  At Home Care Assistance, we believe in being pro-active instead of re-active.

 

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