The 6 Most Misleading Thoughts About HBV and HCV
July 25, 2017 - MCI Canada
Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV) are viruses of the liver. The term “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver, which causes the body to slow blood filtering and infection fighting. These diseases are closely related, so it’s easy for a patient to get them confused, or to believe the myths surrounding them. They are also often confused with HIV, as they too affect the immune system. However, a hepatitis diagnosis does not mean the patient will have an HIV diagnosis, now or ever. It’s important to clear up misconceptions about the diseases to keep patients educated. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about HBV and HCV.
“I Might Contract Hep in a Public Restroom”
HBV and HCV cannot come from public restrooms; they need direct contact for transmission. Both types of hepatitis are passed through bodily fluids exchanged in close contact, as well as through needles shared by drug users, dirty tattoo needles, or from mother to fetus. Hepatitis can be passed between people who are receiving blood transfusions, but the risk for this decreased in 1987 when scientists began testing whole blood transfusions for HBV. However, hepatitis cannot live on a public toilet or be transmitted through public facilities.
“If You Have Hepatitis, You Know It – and You Knowingly Spread the Disease”
Those who have either HCV or HBV — or those who have both — can be unaware for a long period of time. HCV is nearly symptomless, and HBV patients could have the disease for as long as 30 years before developing symptoms. HCV is also commonly spread intravenously between drug users who deny medical care for fear of being arrested, which increases the risk of sharing the disease. Furthermore, it can take up to three months for HCV to show up in your blood, and it is possible to unknowingly spread it during that time.
“You Can Just Get the Vaccine”
This is true for HBV, but it’s not true for HCV. There is no cure or vaccine for Hepatitis C, only treatment of symptoms. For people who don’t have HBV, it is possible to get the preventative vaccine series. If you are under 19, it is recommended you receive the vaccine series, and if you are over 19 you should talk to a medical professional about your options. In general, it is recommended that everyone receives the vaccination, as HBV is a symptomless disease and may spread before the person knows they are sick.
“I’m Married and Only Have Sex With My Partner – I Can’t Get Hepatitis”
HCV is most commonly transmitted through blood, which means that you could get this type of hepatitis outside of sexual contact. HBV is spread when blood, semen, or other bodily fluids are passed between an infected person and someone who does not have the virus.
“Hepatitis Goes Away Without Treatment”
The Hepatitis C virus clears for about 25 percent of those infected without receiving treatment, although experts are unsure of why or how this happens. Around 90 percent of adults with acute HBV are cured of disease naturally within the first 12 months. However, those who have hepatitis or chronic hepatitis for a longer period must seek treatment. Without treatment, both types of hepatitis can lead to liver cancer, damage, cirrhosis, or liver failure.
“My Symptoms Aren’t Dangerous”
On average, HCV takes 6-7 weeks to show symptoms, whereas HBV usually takes a full three months to show symptoms. While there are differences in these hepatitis forms, the signs and symptoms are similar. If you feel you have any form of hepatitis, and you display these symptoms, it’s important to contact a doctor right away:
- Vomiting/loss of appetite
- Dark urine/gray stool
- Stomach pain
- Joint pain
There are many misconceptions about Hepatitis B and C. Thankfully, with the proper education and healthcare, more and more people can undergo the necessary steps to prevent and treat these diseases. With greater research and knowledge-sharing, medical experts and everyday individuals can begin to lessen the widespread impact of HBV and HCV.
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Photo: Shutterstock / Andrei_R