9 Myths About Hepatitis C
- How much do you know about hepatitis C?Hepatitis C is a type of virus that causes inflammation in the liver. The most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. The hepatitis C virus is different from the hepatitis A and B viruses. Like hepatitis B, hepatitis C can start as an acute infection and then develop into a chronic infection. About 3.2 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.
Learn the truth about hepatitis C.
- Myth #1: I’m too old to get hepatitis C.Hepatitis doesn’t have an age limit. Also, Baby Boomers, take note: if you were born between the years 1945 and 1965, you’re statistically more likely to have contracted hepatitis C than people in other generations.
- Myth #2: I’ve never used intravenous drugs, so I’m not at risk.While it’s true that a history of injecting drugs or sharing paraphernalia used for injecting drugs increases your risk and is the most common method of transmission in the United States, it’s not the only way that you can contract hepatitis C. The most common other methods of transmission are needle stick injuries and receipt of contaminated blood or blood products. It’s less common, but you can also contract hepatitis C by sharing personal items that are contaminated with infected blood—think: toothbrush or razor—or by having unprotected sex with a person with hepatitis C. Babies born to infected mothers are also at risk.
- Myth #3: Hep C can be spread through casual contact.Fortunately, you’re very unlikely to contract hepatitis C from the normal activities of daily living. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus, so you would have to come in contact with contaminated blood. You don’t have to worry about spreading the virus through hugging, holding hands, sneezing or coughing.
- Myth #4: The physical symptoms will let me know that I’m infected.Hepatitis C is often called the “silent epidemic” for a good reason: you can have the infection for a long time and not even know it. In fact, you can live with the virus in your system for decades and not even know it. The longer you live with an infection, however, the more likely you are to eventually develop serious liver disease.
- Myth #5: I’ll just get the hepatitis C vaccine, and I’ll be fine.There’s not yet an approved vaccine for hepatitis C on the market, although there are safe, effective vaccines for hepatitis A and B. So, even if you’ve been vaccinated against hepatitis A or B, you can still contract hepatitis C. If you already have hepatitis C, it’s a good idea to get vaccinated against A and B—your already-damaged liver doesn’t need to sustain any further damage as a result of a hepatitis A or B infection.
- Myth # 6: Once you’ve had hepatitis C, you can’t contract it again.Unfortunately, you don’t get lifelong protection against future infections after recovering from hepatitis C.
- Myth #7: Women can’t breastfeed if they have hepatitis C.Generally speaking, there’s no reason a woman with hepatitis C should not be able to breastfeed her baby if she chooses to do so. However, if she develops cracked or bleeding nipples, it’s best that she abstain so that she doesn’t risk transmitting the virus to her baby.
- Myth #8: Everyone diagnosed with hepatitis C should immediately start treatment with the currently available medications.It’s a decision that should be reached after careful discussion—and assessment of your health—with your healthcare provider. Some people can actually take a wait-and-see approach before beginning treatment. However, people who have developed scarring of the liver may need to be more aggressive in starting treatment.
- Myth #9: There’s no cure.Actually, there is. The goal of treatment with medication is to clear the virus from your bloodstream. If the levels of the virus are undetectable in your blood six months after finishing treatment, you’re considered cured. You will hear this phenomenon referred to as “sustained virologic response” or SVR.
9 Myths About Hepatitis C