Hepatitis C—When Was Hepatitis C Discovered? What Causes Hepatitis C?

 Hepatitis C and its discovery

The disease Hepatitis C is caused by a virus which ultimately contaminates the liver. In due course of time, it can even lead to liver cancer, failure of the liver, and cirrhosis.

It is a communicable liver infection and is caused by the Hepatitis C virus, also known as HCV, discovered in 1989. Before this period it was associated with blood transfusions and was known as non-A, non-B hepatitis since it was hard for doctors to identify the particular virus. There are several groups of people who are simply unaware of the fact that they are infected with Hepatitis C until they come across liver damage. It can take many years to finally uncover the fact of being infected by the virus. Such are the facts of Hepatitis C.

What causes Hepatitis C?

One can become infected with Hepatitis C by coming into contact with the blood of a person who is infected by this virus. There are several other bodily fluids that also contain this virus; however, the percentage tends to be higher in the case of blood. It is believed that at room temperature, the virus is capable of sustaining and enduring outside the body in dried blood patches on surfaces for several weeks.

A few common ways of being infected by this virus are mentioned below:

  • Injecting drugs

Those who regularly inject drugs, including illegal recreational drugs as well as performance-enhancing drugs, like anabolic steroids, tend to be at a high risk of becoming infected by the Hepatitis C virus. In the UK alone, more than 90% of Hepatitis C cases occur in people who have injected themselves with drugs in the past or with those who are currently injecting them. It’s been estimated that about half of the drug-injecting population of the UK are infected with this virus.

This infection easily spreads when needles and associated devices are shared. Injecting a needle that’s contaminated is enough for an individual to become infected with this disease.

Some of the other common causes are:

  • Unprotected sex

Hepatitis C does have a chance of being transmitted when one has unprotected sex (by not using condoms); nevertheless the risk is quite low. The danger of transmission through sex tends to be higher amongst men who have sex with men. The risk increases when there is any genital ulcer or sores or if either of the partners has HIV. However, if you have had a steady partner for years, then the risk is drastically lowered even if one engages in unprotected sex.

  • Blood transfusions

If you have had any dental or medical treatment overseas or a blood transfusion during which the medical devices were not properly sterilized, there are chances of you being infected with Hepatitis C, as the virus has strong endurance power, especially in traces of blood that were left on the equipment.

  • Sharing scissors, toothbrushes, and razors

The risks of being infected with Hepatitis C are higher when certain items are shared, like razors and toothbrushes, as these can be easily contaminated with blood that’s infected.

Even devices that are used by hairdressers, such as clippers or scissors, can pose a threat of being contaminated with infected blood. This is why it is important for them to be cleaned well and sterilized between customers.

  • Tattooing or getting body parts pierced

People who get tattooed or body pierced stand a greater chance of being infected with the Hepatitis C virus if the device was not sterilized. However, most tattoo parlors are regulated by the law and operate at high standards, which lowers the risk.

Since 2001, Dr. Alexander G. Salerno has led Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey. Dr. Alexander Salerno focuses largely on urban communities and on delivering patient education about both medical and behavioral health issues.