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May 6, 2019

Hepatitis C viral illness; a blood borne infection nothing to do with water


May 6, 2019

Islamabad : In last one-and-a-half weeks, it has been appeared in a section of press that certain mineral water brands have been spreading hepatitis C in the federal capital that according to health experts is a misconception as hepatitis C is a blood borne infection and has nothing to do with the drinking water.

Hepatitis C viral (HCV) infection is a blood borne infection, which primarily affects the liver and it is clear that the fecal oral route or the drinking water is in no way a cause of HCV transmission and spread, said Associate Professor of Pathology and Consultant Microbiologist at Al-Nafees Medical College Islamabad Dr Humaira Zafar while talking to ‘The News’ on Sunday.

She said the most common modes of transmission for this blood borne infection includes exposure to even small quantities of blood of a person infected with hepatitis C virus that may be because of unsafe health care practices by using improperly sterilized instruments in hospitals or dental clinics, and the transfusion of unscreened blood or blood products. “Therefore the patients undergoing surgery, haemodialysis (kidney dialysis) and intra venous drug abusers and HIV patients are at higher risk of acquiring infection,” she said.

According to The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency in the United States, Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood of an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected. Hepatitis C is more commonly spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to prepare or inject drugs, needle stick injuries in health care settings and being born to a mother who has hepatitis C and less commonly, it may spread through sharing personal care items having an infected person’s blood, such as razors or toothbrushes, or having sexual contact with a person infected with the hepatitis C virus or getting a tattoo or body piercing in an unregulated setting.

The CDC says that Hepatitis C virus is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing and it is also not spread through food or water.

Hepatitis C is often described as “acute,” meaning a new infection or “chronic,” meaning lifelong infection. Hepatitis C can be a short-term illness, but for most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection particularly if left untreated.

Dr. Humaira said the infection usually follows a long course that is the time duration from acquiring infection and appearance of the first symptom. Usually this time period ranges between 14 to 180 days. Initially in acute phase, the infection remains either asymptomatic or vague unhealthy feelings can be there while the chronic state leads to scarring of the liver, cirrhosis, liver cancer in few cases, 15 to 30 per cent cases within 20 years and finally a life threatening liver failure, she explained.

She said the HCV antibodies from the mother may persist in infants until 15 months of age. Most infants infected with HCV at the time of birth have no symptoms and do well during childhood. There is no evidence that breast-feeding spreads HCV, though to be cautious, an infected mother should avoid breastfeeding in case of having the superficial skin erosions or bleeding from breasts, she said.

She said in Pakistan the estimated prevalence of HCV infection is 4.8 per cent. The dilemma is the absence of vaccine but provision of good diagnostic and management facilities with antiviral drugs and liver transplant, the cure rate has reached up to 95 per cent, she said.

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