Hepatitis C treatment: since 2018, simpler and more effective

The Hepatitis C is an infection that causes inflammation of the liver. Currently, it affects around 1.5 million people in Brazil alone, but most of them do not know. This is because there are many reasons why the disease is unknown to the population, among them, the delay for symptoms to manifest.

They usually start to appear only when the liver is already seriously compromised, which can only occur 20 to 30 years after the virus invades the body.

And that is not all that contributes to the worrying data about the lack of knowledge about hepatitis C. Even with campaigns for prevention and treatment of the disease, HCV (virus that causes infection) is relatively new.

It was only in 1989 that he was identified, and until then the condition was called non-A and non-B hepatitis. Thereafter, health professionals and authorities had more information about the disease, as well as the need to adopt preventive measures to reduce the transmission of the viral agent.

These factors, together, make a significant contribution to the high rates of undiagnosed hepatitis C. As a result, treatment also does not occur, causing HCV transmission to other people to be favored.

So, knowing about the infection and ways of prevention is the best way to take care of yourself!

Symptoms: what can HCV infection cause?

A large number of people infected with the hepatitis C virus are asymptomatic, both in the acute phase (up to the first 6 months after infection) and in the chronic phase, causing the condition not to be treated properly. However, a very low percentage of cases have symptoms.

When they do occur, the most common ones include:

  • Sickness;
  • Discomfort;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Fatigue;
  • Weight loss.

In addition, there are people who have yellowed skin and eyes, a condition called jaundice , which is the most striking feature of liver involvement.

However, as many of these manifestations are mild and nonspecific, such as tiredness , even when patients have symptomatic conditions, they may be of little indication.

Bearing in mind that many people may have been infected before the virus was completely identified in 1989. This means that, when symptoms begin, suspicion of hepatitis C is not raised, as soon as people do not always remember that they were exposed to situations of risk.

Transmission on everyday occasions

Although many people relate hepatitis C to sexual transmission, infection with the virus occurs mainly in everyday situations, such as getting a manicure, putting on a piercing, getting a tattoo or even during a dental appointment.

Everything depends on whether an instrument used on these occasions is infected with the HCV virus, usually because the equipment is not properly discarded or sterilized.

It is worth remembering that, even if there are no symptoms, infected people can transmit the virus.

Learn more about forms of transmission:

Contact with contaminated blood

Contact with contaminated blood is the main route of transmission of hepatitis C. Thus, common or daily activities can be the means of contamination by HCV.

Doing nails with unhygienic or shared items, getting tattoos or piercing in unattended places, or even going to the dentist’s office who do not use disposable materials are risky situations.

Sharing syringes and sharp or piercing materials or getting involved in accidents that can cause direct contact with blood are also situations that can result in infection.

In addition, another important aspect is blood transfusion. Although today the procedure is safe, due to the tests they do on the donated material, until 1989 the HCV virus was unknown by health professionals and until 1993 the donated material was not tested.

Therefore, anyone who has received a blood transfusion before 1993 must undergo anti-HCV tests.

Sexual transmission 

Transmission of hepatitis C through unprotected sex is uncommon, but it can occur.

In general, the situations that involve possibilities of damaging the mucous membranes are the most related to the transmission, exactly because it favors the contact with small bleeds.

However, any sexual intercourse without a condom involves risks of infection .

Vertical transmission 

Another form of infection is called vertical transmission, which occurs from mother to child during pregnancy, usually during childbirth. Therefore, the transplacental route (during pregnancy) is much less common.

So, all pregnant women should perform anti-HCV tests at the beginning of pregnancy and, if there is a diagnosis, follow medical guidelines.

When to get a hepatitis C test?

Get tested for hepatitis C if you:

  • He is over 40 and has never been tested for infection;
  • He had a blood transfusion before 1993;
  • Has the habit of attending manicurists and podiatrists (a);
  • Have pierced or tattooed;
  • Used / uses injectable or inhalable drugs;
  • There are people in the family who have already been diagnosed with hepatitis C;
  • He had unprotected sex;
  • Live with HIV or AIDS;
  • Do / did hemodialysis.

What specialty makes the diagnosis?

Hepatitis C

Although hepatology is the specialty to diagnose, treat and prevent liver diseases, doctors in other areas can also help to identify the infection, especially if they detect the risk factors and signs of the disease early.

The exam is very simple and is available at SUS health units or Testing and Counseling Centers (CTA). These tests are quick and identify antibodies to the disease.

This means that, if it is positive, the person does not necessarily have the active infection, as it may indicate that there was contact with HCV, but the virus was fought by the body.

In this case, it is necessary to perform more specific laboratory tests, called HCV viral load tests, which can also be done by SUS or private clinics.

Based on these results, doctors give the correct guidelines to patients.

Free trial: how to access?

The rapid test for hepatitis C, or HCV Immuno-Rapid Test, is available free of charge by SUS and does not require a medical request. So just look for a Testing and Counseling Center or Health Center to do it.

It is done on the spot, with just a drop of blood taken from the finger, and the result comes out in 15 minutes.

The kit consists of a small sensor. After properly cleaning your hands, one of your fingers will be punctured with a lancet. A quantity of blood is collected and only a droplet is dispensed on the sensor. Then, the healthcare professional will place 3 drops of diluent on top of the drop of blood.

It only takes about 15 minutes for the result to come out.

In addition, people who already have a blood test scheduled or scheduled can also ask the medical professional to include the hepatitis C test in the medical guide.

Treatment for all people

After ordering specific tests for hepatitis C and confirming the infection, it is necessary to start the treatment as soon as possible, as soon as this favors the cure.

In addition, complementary exams are done to investigate the existence of complications related to hepatitis C. Among them, cirrhosis (loss of liver function due to the formation of fibrous tissue) and hepatocellular carcinoma, this can result in the need for liver transplants.

Regardless of complications, treatment should be done as soon as possible. However, it is essential to know the entire clinical picture, as this can affect the regimens and the conduct of treatment. If there is a diagnosis of liver fibrosis or other complications, the conditions should be analyzed individually.

Since 2018, the Ministry of Health has adopted a care protocol for the treatment of hepatitis C, providing more effective drugs and with reduced risk of side effects. In addition, treatment is available to all diagnosed people free of charge.

Generally, patients are treated with just one pill a day for 12 weeks. Following the protocol with discipline, the chance of cure is quite high, reaching 98%.

What has changed in treatment

More effective medications, with fewer side effects and oral use. These are some changes present in the new Clinical Protocol and Therapeutic Guidelines for Viral Hepatitis of 2018. See what has changed the most:

Old protocols Current protocol
Duration of treatment 48 weeks 12 weeks
Drug administration Injections and pills 1 tablet daily
Chance of cure No maximum 50% Up to 98%
Availability Only with impaired liver function For all diagnosed people
Side effects Strong with:
Headache ;
Depression ;
Hair loss .
Light, when there are

Hepatitis C vaccine?

No. Although hepatitis A and B have vaccines, type C does not yet have this route of protection. Precisely for this reason, it is still quite difficult to control the transmission of the disease.

It is worth mentioning that, even so, keeping vaccinations up to date is important to protect yourself from other diseases and infections. As for hepatitis C, other preventive care must be maintained.

Target for 2030

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a plan to eliminate the current hepatitis C crisis by 2030. Although it is still not possible to eradicate cases of infection because there is no vaccine available, hepatitis C can no longer be a serious problem. public health.

With the update of the Clinical Protocol and Therapeutic Guidelines for Viral Hepatitis, of 2018, Brazil has aligned itself with the global goals for the reduction of hepatitis C.

By 2030, the goal is to expand the diagnosis and treatment of infections to reduce the number of new cases and mortality by up to 65% by 90%.

With approximately 25 thousand cases of hepatitis C diagnosed in the country per year, a 90% reduction in new cases is equivalent to about 2500 cases per year in 2030.

In order to reduce mortality by 65%, it is necessary to treat 50 thousand people annually by 2024 and 32 thousand people per year between 2025 and 2030.

For this, the greater ease and speed of diagnosis, as well as shorter and simpler treatments help to reach the goal.

Hepatitis C protection tips

Care to prevent HCV infection should be adopted even by those who have had hepatitis C and received treatment, as it does not promote immunity.

In general, it is essential to pay close attention to the sharp objects that are used on a daily basis, such as razor blades. Not using shared syringes, in addition to scissors and nail pliers, keeping a kit for personal use, is very important.

It is also necessary to always remember to use a condom in any sexual relationship and to ensure that health, hygiene and beauty procedures are performed with sterile or disposable material.

If there is exposure to any risky situation, the orientation is to seek a medical service to receive the necessary information and care.

Providing accessible and effective forms of diagnosis and treatment is a way to reduce rates of hepatitis C, a disease that affects about 71 million people and is responsible for approximately 70% of deaths from viral hepatitis.

With the adoption of the Clinical Protocol and Therapeutic Guidelines (PCDT) for Hepatitis C and Coinfections, Brazil joins the WHO objective to face and reduce HCV infection.

So, free of charge and quickly, it is possible to find out if you have the disease and start treatment.

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