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Hepatitis Message Board


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I went through six months of treatment for Hep C this year and have been testing negative for the virus for past six months. Here are the answers I can provide (regarding Hep C only):

1.how can you recognize someone with hepatitis?
You can't, unless they're in the extreme stages and have become jaundiced (yellowing of the skin). An average person with Hep C has no outward symptoms. Most people with the disease don't even know it!

6.what are the causes of this disease? how does it occur? is it preventable? how?
Hep C is transmitted blood-to-blood, so sexual transmission is very rare. More common transmissions are from contaminated drug needles, dialysis, blood transfusions, piercings (any kind including getting your ears pierced at a shopping mall), tattoos (which is how I probably got it), and sharing cocaine straws, toothbrushes, tweezers, etc. Basically, anything where contaminated blood can come into contact with your own blood. It can be prevented by avoiding these things. (When I got my tattoo, I saw the brand new needle come out of the package...what I didn't know is that the ink itself could be contaminated.)

Once you find out you have Hep C, you can take steps to keep it from getting worse. The liver has an extraordinary ability to heal itself. When you have the illness you should eat a low-fat healthy diet, take vitamin E and vitamins WITHOUT iron, and above all, stop drinking alcohol!

7.what are the symptoms and complications of hepatitis?
Depends on what stage you're in. I had no symptoms and only found out by accident during a routine blood test when they noticed my liver enzymes were high. Some symptoms can include fatigue and pain in the upper right quadrant, but quite often, there are no symptoms.

8.is it fatal? when?
Hep C can be fatal if it leads to cirrhosis of the liver.

9.what are the current treatments? how effective are they?
I was on Peg-Intron and Rebetol for six months, from March to September. Peg-Intron is pegylated interferon. The combination of interferon and Rebetol can be very effective. I tested negative in June and again in December. So hopefully I'm done with it. There is a new treatment out called Pegasys, which is supposed to be more effective for people with genotype 1 Hep C.

There are several different genotypes of Hep C. Genotypes 1A and 1B are the most difficult to treat, but they're by far the most common types. Genotypes 2A and 2B have a much higher rate of response to the treatment (I'm a 2B). There are other genotypes, too.

11.how does society treat someone with hepatitis?
It's very scary. I haven't told very many people. The ones I have told were understanding. But I did need to explain everything to them so they wouldn't be afraid of catching it from me. Once they learned about it, they were fine with it and not afraid to kiss me or share food with me, as it cannot be transmitted that way.

I hear hepatitis jokes all the time and I just stay quiet about it, but it really hurts inside. Most people seem to think of hepatitis as something dirty or something you only get if you're promiscuous or a junkie. It's very difficult.

Also, there is a lot of false information out there. I've seen reports on shows like ABC's Good Morning America in which they listed sexual contact as the number one transmission method of Hep C. WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!

It's very frustrating. I've been such a good girl all my life and then I got this little tattoo, and now I have this disease that stigmatizes me as someone who must be dirty. It's very hard. Especially as a single girl.

12.what are some support groups for hepatits?
Hep C Alert (305) 893-7992 (They have a Web site, too.)

Also, Schering-Plough, who makes Peg-Intron, has telephone support at 888-437-2608.

You can also contact the American Liver Foundation. They will be able to give you contacts.

Hope this helps!





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