Hepatitis Awareness Month

Hepatitis Awareness Month

Hepatitis. Know Your Risk!

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, a disease that goes hand-in-hand with drug use. Are you or could you be at risk? Knowledge is power! Read on to learn more about this disease and how to prevent it, and the basic facts.

Hepatitis in a Nutshell

There are three kinds of hepatitis, and the cause and effects are quite different for each. It is completely possible to have hepatitis and not even know at first, since there can be no symptoms. Hepatitis A is a rare form of the disease spread through contaminated food or drink, travelling to certain countries where the disease is prevalent, having sexual encounters with an infected person, or illegal drug injection. It is preventable by vaccine and typically resolves within days to a week.

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection that is caused by a virus. For some people it becomes chronic, which can lead to liver failure, cancer, or cirrhosis. Finally, Hepatitis C is the strain most commonly associated with drug use, and unfortunately 75 to 85% of people who have it develop a long-term chronic condition. It is one of the top reasons people get liver transplants.

Why is Hepatitis C So Prevalent in the Drug Community?Hepatitis C Awareness

One of the leading causes of transmission of Hepatitis C is through drug injection, especially sharing drugs and needles. It only takes one time of sharing a needle or paraphernalia with an infected person to contract the disease, and contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just the needle itself that poses a threat.

Drug solutions that are prepared using a single set of equipment like cookers and filtration cotton provide an additional route or transmission for the disease from one user to another. Entire groups of people that use together can become infected this way, because anyone injecting the drug that was prepared in the contaminated cooker or cotton is injecting the virus directly into their bloodstream.

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Think You May Have Been Exposed?

Get tested. A blood test is the only way to determine if you do in fact have the virus, and from there you can figure out a treatment plan with your doctor. Symptoms include fevers, muscle and joint pain, nausea, loss of appetite, and weakness. However, often there are no symptoms at all until the disease has progressed. Catching it early can lead to a better outcome. Hepatitis C treatment has changed drastically in the past few years, and many options are out there to help anyone who has the disease live a long, healthy, and full life.

Protect Yourself

The best thing to do, as with any disease, is to prevent exposure in the first place. An obvious one would be to not use intravenous drugs, and if you are in the depths of addiction, seek the help you need. If you are using drugs, until you stop completely make sure never to share any needles or equipment.

If you live with or are in contact with someone who has the disease, or are unsure, drastic measures do not need to be taken, just simple steps to protect yourself. Never share toothbrushes, razors or other personal care items. Always practice safe sex to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C. Also, beware of procedures like tattoos and body piercing – always make sure the equipment used is brand-new, sterile, and the practitioner is licensed.

 

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