Millions of people are living with hepatitis worldwide but many may not know that they are infected! The most common types of hepatitis include hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis causes the liver to swell, scarring of the liver, and even liver cancer or liver failure. Vaccines are available to protect against HAV and HBV but not HCV. Treatment is available for HBV and HCV.
How is hepatitis spread?
The HBV and HCV virus is spread when blood or other body fluids containing blood from an infected person enter the body of a person who is not infected. This can happen through sharing needles or items like toothbrushes and razors, or when infected blood enters through a cut in the skin. HBV can also spread from an infected mother to her baby during birth. HBV can also be spread through semen and vaginal fluids during sexual contact. Mother to child transmission and sexual transmission are possible but less common for HCV. HAV spreads primarily by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or eating contaminated food or water.
Hepatitis C is the most commonly reported viral hepatitis in Boston. In 2015, there were 803 cases of HCV reported to the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). Some people will not experience any symptoms, but when symptoms occur, they may include:
- Whites of the eye and skin turn yellow
- Flu like symptoms
- Dark brown urine
- Stomach pain
- Grey-colored stools (feces)
Who is at risk?
Most cases of HCV had a history of injection drug use but there are other groups with an increased risk of getting HCV. These include:
- people who have had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
- people receiving long-term hemodialysis (kidney dialysis) treatment
- people who shared tattooing or body piercing needles or ink
- people living with HIV
- healthcare workers who may have been exposed to infected blood
- children born to mothers with HCV
- people born between 1945 and 1965
There is no vaccine available for HCV, but there are effective treatment options.
Talk to a healthcare provider to find out if you need to be tested for hepatitis or if you need to be vaccinated against HAV or HBV. If you don't have a healthcare provider, call the Mayor's Health Line at (617) 534-5050 to help you find a healthcare provider near you. For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/RiskAssessment/ .