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My uncle was not the only person to become infected with the hepatitis C virus, but in fact many people are presently struggling to keep it under control. Today four million Americans are infected with the hepatitis C virus and there are thirty thousand new cases of this virus found each year (Turkington 9). Hepatitis C takes ten thousand lives each year just in the United States, and without effective treatment the death rate is expected to triple in the next fifteen years (Turkington 9). Seventy-five percent of those infected with the virus will develop chronic hepatitis and half of those people will develop cirrhosis of the liver (Turkington 9). The hepatitis C virus is sometimes referred to as the Hidden Epidemic because an estimated four million people are infected with it and symptoms may not show until twenty years later (Grady). It is also the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States (Bushie).
This virus affects so many people and we should all learn and study more about it to hasten its spread. Hepatitis is a rather new virus to the science world, but it has been around for a very long time. Before scientists knew about hepatitis C, they had discovered A and B types, so when they found C they called it non-A non-B (Turkington 5). The virus was discovered in 1987, but not until after 1990 was blood tested for hepatitis, causing many people to receive and contract the virus (Turkington 5). Hepatitis is thought to have originated in the Far East because of the diversity and number of people infected in that location (Turkington 6). Strains of hepatitis are found in Thailand, which has led researchers to believe it mutated in Asia to form all its genotypes (Turkington 6).
There are five types of the hepatitis virus and they are A, B, C, D, and E (Hoofnagle). Hepatitis C is caused by a single-stranded virus with a core of ribonucleic acid (Turkington 10). Hepatitis C has so many genotypes that the virus cannot be detected by the immune system (Turkington 11). It has six separate genotypes and each genotype has three to four subtypes (Turkington 11). Every genotype of the virus is restricted to different regions of the world (Turkington 11). The most common genotypes of hepatitis C in North America are the 1a and 1b genotypes (Turkington 11).
The genotype 1b is the most severe form of the hepatitis C virus because it is the most aggressive, it responds least to drug therapies, and it recurs the quickest after liver transplantation (Turkington 11). There are many tests to determine which genotype the patient has. Genotype tests are not necessary because treatment has nothing to do with the strain of the virus and also these tests are very expensive (Turkington 11). Hepatitis C, though it has a wide diversity, is a very deadly virus because it attacks a very important organ, the liver. The main target of hepatitis is the liver, which is one of the most important organs in the human body. The liver is the largest internal organ we have, and is located in the upper right section of the abdomen.
The liver has many functions it carries out for our bodies. The liver stores glycogen that is converted into sugar and then releases it into the body for energy (Bushie). It also stores iron, copper, fat and many other essential vitamins (Bushie). The liver cleans and purifies blood, activates most medicines, forms nutrients into simpler substances, and manufactures proteins (Turkington 2-4). The proteins the liver produces are albumin, which carries nutrients to certain parts of the body, and others that stop bleeding (Turkington 3). The liver can heal and replace its own lost tissues while other cells take over the jobs of the damaged ones (Turkington 4).
Hepatitis C causes inflammation of the livers cells and tissues. If the liver is injured and stops functioning, death will always be the outcome (Lieber). The earliest sign of liver disease is jaundice (Lieber). Often diseases that are painless, such as hepatitis C, effect the liver which make detection very difficult (Lieber). The liver is a very important part of our body so we have to protect it from hepatitis by knowing how we can contract it. There are many ways to contract hepatitis C and there are also many types of people who are more prone to it than others.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus, meaning it grows and reproduces in your blood (Turkington 18). That also means that it is transmitted through blood (Turkington 18). The hepatitis C virus has been known to survive up to three months in a single drop of dried blood (Turkington 18). Most common form of contracting hepatitis C is through shared needles that are used during body piercing, injecting illegal drugs, and tattooing (Turkington 19). Another common way is through blood transfusions. Since labs did not start testing blood for the hepatitis C virus until 1990 many people received contaminated blood (Turkington 19).
Everyone who has received blood before 1992 should have their blood tested to see if they have this disease or any other blood related disease (Turkington 19). Where most people think they are safe, they can sometimes catch this virus. In developing countries many people receive the hepatitis C virus from getting acupuncture or even vaccinations against other diseases (Turkington 21). Even in the United States there have been a few cases of people contracting hepatitis C from tiny traces of blood on anesthesia masks (Turkington 23). Luckily, hepatitis cannot be transmitted through sexual intercourse, and mothers, who are carrying a child, cannot give the virus to their children (Turkington 24). The only way the virus can be transmitted through saliva is if the infected person has a cut in their mouth that is bleeding (Turkington 25). Hepatitis C cannot be transmitted through mosquitoes, air, food, or water (Turkington 21, 25).
People who are at risk are hemophiliacs and drug abusers (Turkington 13). Eighty percent of all drug abusers acquire hepatitis C in their lifetime (Turkington 13). Hepatitis C can affect all races, but it is most common in minority groups (Turkington 13). People who have received blood anywhere in the world, people with multiple sex partners, and people who have lived with an infected person are all at risk for hepatitis C (Turkington 14). Over the years, scientists have come up with ways to reduce the risk of infection. If someone uses intravenous drugs, they should never share needles with another person (Bushie). People should stay away from illegal drugs and practice sexual abstinence, or a relationship with an uninfected partner (Bushie). If you are undergoing surgery, just to be safe, you should donate your own blood instead of using donated blood (Bushie).
Once you are infected with the hepatitis C virus, it enters your bloodstream and passes through the liver where it reproduces in the liver cells (Turkington 13). The immune system attempts to fight it off which causes the inflammation of the liver (Turkington 13). After one to three weeks it can be detected in the blood and in six to twelve weeks you can start to undergo the first symptoms (Turkington 13, 33). Hepatitis C is a very dangerous disease and that is why we all must follow certain precautions to keep ourselves safe. There are a wide variety of symptoms that one, who is infected with hepatitis C, can experience while in the different stages of the virus. The first symptoms occur between six to ....
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