Hepatitis C. . .

NOT JUST A LIVER DISEASE: “Hepatitis” means an inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C affects many other parts of the body as well as the liver.

A SILENT KILLER: There are many kinds of hepatitis virus including hepatitis A, B, C, D, and so on. Hepatitis C is only one kind, but it kills the most people, worldwide. Many people don’t know they have it until after terrible damage has been done.

COMES FROM: Hepatitis can be caused by alcohol, poisons, or viruses which can be spread through many ways. Hepatitis C is caused by a VIRUS (HCV) which is spread by BLOOD-TO-BLOOD contact.

PREVENTION/CURE? Yes, there are ways to protect yourself and others from hepatitis C. There is NO VACCINE but there is a CURE (approximately 90% – 99% successful, depending on disease genotype, degree of liver damage, and prior treatment history). The cure is now covered by BC PharmaCare and most insurance plans in both Canada and the USA. Several pharmaceuticals are available, collectively called DAAs or “direct-acting antivirals”. Unlike past Hepatitis C treatments (interferon, ribavirin, boceprevir, etc.), the new DAAs are all oral, with few if any side-effects, and the entire treatment time is only 6-12 weeks. Once a person is cured, they will no longer be able to infect others with hepatitis C.

REALLY? A C-U-R-E ??? Yes, a true cure has been discovered which actually kills every hepatitis C virus in an infected person’s body. This condition is called a SUSTAINED VIRAL RESPONSE or SVR. Three to six months after a patient has completed treatment, their health service provider will order another PCR test. If it comes back without any hepatitis C virus (“UNDETECTABLE”), the patient will be considered to have ACHIEVED SVR, also known as a CURE. It is very exciting for a healthcare provider to be able to tell a patient such great news!

DOES A CURE MEAN A PERSON IS SAFE FROM CIRRHOSIS or LIVER CANCER? No, the damage done to one’s liver and other organs does not go away immediately. After the virus is gone, there is no more new damage. However, it can take several years for damaged organs to heal, and for the risk of cancer to diminish. Some organs will never return to their pre-hepatitis state, and other conditions such as auto-immune responses may remain. 

RE-INFECTION? Yes, a person can become re-infected with hepatitis C virus if they engage in at-risk behaviours. DAAs do not protect a person from becoming re-infected.