Frequently asked questions about Viral Hepatitis

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Who should take a hepatitis C test?

People who have taken or take intravenous or intranasal drugs and have shared or share needles or any material used to inhale powdered drugs are recommended to take the anti-HCV test. This also applies to people born between 1955 and 1970. In Spain, of all patients diagnosed to date, the majority were born during this period and: have haemophilia and received transfusions with clotting factors prior to 1990; received a blood or blood product transfusion or organ transplant before the introduction of screening tests in 1992; are HIV positive and/or co-infected with hepatitis B or D virus; have persistently high transaminase levels in blood tests; cohabit with a HCV patient, are sexual partners with a HCV patient or have multiple sexual partners; children born to mothers with HCV; people from countries with a high prevalence of hepatitis C; or carers, healthcare personnel or security employees who have suffered needle stick injuries or been exposed to mucous membranes contaminated with HCV positive blood.

The body can require a few weeks to generate antibodies after being infected and therefore a period of 3 to 6 months must pass before undergoing the antibody test in order to obtain a reliable result.

What can someone recently diagnosed with hepatitis C do?

The diagnosis of hepatitis C is usually unexpected. Discovering that you have hepatitis C is a hard experience. It can be an emotional shock for both the patient and the people around them. The first step is to obtain good medical care and a good assessment of the state of the disease. The hepatologist and their team will perform all the necessary tests and evaluate the results before deciding how to manage your treatment.

What can someone diagnosed with hepatitis C do while they are not receiving any treatment to cure the HCV?

Everybody with a chronic HCV infection and no antibodies to hepatitis A and/or hepatitis B should be vaccinated against these two viral infections. Becoming infected with HAV or HBV would be a further problem to add to the chronic hepatitis C. Patients must not consume alcohol and are advised not to smoke as it accelerates the rate at which their HCV progresses. Many medications, with or without a prescription, can affect the liver. This is also true of vitamins, minerals and food supplements. Patients should not take any herbal drugs or treatments or natural remedies without discussing them with their hepatologist.

On the other hand, no special dietary restrictions are required. It helps to drink lots of water and eat fresh fruit and vegetables as they are vital for health because they provide water, vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients which regulate body functions. Recommendations include adequate, but not excessive, amounts of foods high in carbohydrates (wholegrain cereals, pulses, potatoes) and high-protein foods (meat, fish and eggs). Patients must try to maintain a suitable weight, as obesity increases the risk of developing a fatty liver.

Generally, patients can and should follow a normal lifestyle with no restrictions on physical activity and normal occupational activities.

Can I donate blood after having a hepatitis infection?

Spanish law does not permit blood donations even after the disease has been clinically cured.

Can I be reinfected with hepatitis?

You cannot be reinfected with hepatitis A or B. In the case of hepatitis C, the disease does not provide protection and you could be reinfected with another instance of hepatitis C.

What should I do in the case of an accidental needle stick injury, high-risk sexual contact or another risky situation?

Visit your doctor within the next few hours to begin preventive measures; in other words, to receive (if necessary) immunoglobulins and a vaccination, if dealing with hepatitis A or B.

What is the difference between acute and chronic hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B infection is classed as acute for the first 6 months after infection. If after 6 months you still produce a positive result for a hepatitis B virus test (HBsAg+), you are considered to have a chronic hepatitis B infection that could last for the rest of your life.

How do I know I have recovered from acute hepatitis B infection?

After the doctors use a blood test to confirm that the virus has been eliminated from your system and you have developed protective antibodies (anti-HBs+), you will be protected against future hepatitis B infections and cannot transmit the disease to anyone else.

What should I do if I am diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B?

If the hepatitis B virus test produces a positive result for more than 6 months, this indicates you have a chronic hepatitis B infection.

The virus may remain in your blood and liver for the rest of your life. It is important to know that you can transmit the virus and therefore all of your sexual partners and the members of your household must be vaccinated against hepatitis B.

Substantiated information by:

Concepció Bartrés
Sergio Rodríguez-Tajes
Xavier Forns
Zoe Mariño

Published: 20 September 2018
Updated: 20 September 2018

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