HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis or liver damage is most often due to an infection (virus) or can be alcoholic or drug related. Viral hepatitis is classified from A to G depending on the virus involved.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease of viral origin. Its severity varies and can range from a mild form, lasting only a few weeks, to a serious illness that sets in for life.

Causes and risk factors

The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through the blood and most often by:

  • injecting drug use with sharing of injection or blood contact equipment (toothbrushes, razors, nail scissors, hair removal equipment, practice of the hijama, etc.).
  • the reuse or incomplete sterilization of medical equipment, in particular syringes and needles, in healthcare settings;
  • transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products;
  • sexual practices resulting in exposure to blood, especially in individuals infected with HIV (the AIDS virus).
  • There is a risk of transmission from mother to child at the time of childbirth only if viruses are detectable in the mother's blood.

Hepatitis C cannot be spread through breast milk, food, water, or by sharing food or drink with an infected person.

Signs of the disease

  • Infection with the hepatitis C virus begins with a silent period of varying length, depending on the amount of virus transmitted. It lasts between 2 to 12 weeks.
  • After this period, the infection manifests as acute hepatitis . In most cases, no symptoms are visible and sometimes symptoms of fatigue, dark urine, whitish stools and jaundice.
  • This acute hepatitis can be more or less severe and the existence of severe hepatitis as with hepatitis A and B is possible but rare. Diagnosed late and / or without treatment, hepatitis can cause serious complications.
  • A distinction is made between viral hepatitis and toxic hepatitis, due to toxic products (drugs, alcohol, etc.). Concerning the first category, there are 6 viruses responsible for these inflammations of the liver: A, B, C, D, E and G. Their mode of contamination can be different, just like their symptoms .

Consultation

  • Based on the symptoms described above, the doctor will feel the liver to check the condition of the affected organ. , the observation points to his diagnosis of hepatitis. His questioning will allow him to consider what type of hepatitis: viral, medicinal, alcoholic, etc. Then, only laboratory tests will verify that it is hepatitis C.

Additional examinations and analyzes

  • The first tests ordered by the doctor will be a liver function test for: transaminases and bilirubin looking for liver damage.
  • The doctor makes the diagnosis. During the consultation, after a discussion of the symptoms, he prescribes serology. It is a test in the blood for antibodies to the main hepatitis. These antibodies are one of the body's defense mechanisms against the virus, they are only present in case of infection. The antibodies that make it possible to make the diagnosis of hepatitis C are called anti-HCV antibodies found after sampling carried out in the medical analysis laboratory.
  • Very important: it is recommended to perform an individual screening for infection at least once in life with other sexually transmitted infections.

Then, if the serology is positive, the doctor seeks to know the stage of the disease (acute or chronic) with complementary examination (PCR). If PCR positive, there is persistence of the virus in the blood and there has been a transition to chronicity.

The healthcare professional also orders a standard blood test, biological tests of the liver and an abdominal ultrasound. Then he sends the patient to a fellow doctor specializing in the management of hepatitis in hospital. There are 48 hospital structures with services dedicated to the management of hepatitis.

Evolution of the disease

Chronic hepatitis C can mainly progress to two serious forms of the liver.

  • Cirrhosis 10 to 20% of cases including liver cancer, 1 to 5% of cases each year.

As the disease progresses, it may also be accompanied by other symptoms 1 :

  • Diabetes;
  • Cardiac disorders;
  • Skin problems.

It is estimated that between 50 and 70% of carriers have no symptoms and are at risk of discovering their disease at an advanced stage, hence the value of screening. There are 50 free testing centers where you can do this.

Treatment

The arrival of new direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs against HCV has greatly affected the prognosis of patients with HCV. It was the first chronic disease that became curable.

  • At the start of hepatitis, in the acute phase, rest, stopping certain medications (oral contraceptives for example), stopping all alcoholic drinks are the measures to be taken.
  • Currently, treatments exist in Algeria (Sofosdac from BEKER Laboratories) and are paid for free by the hospital.

On reminder 

As already mentioned, the main route of contamination is through the sharing of equipment between injecting drug users . It is absolutely necessary to avoid exchanging used syringes . Awareness and education measures are carried out regularly among these populations at risk

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