Hepatitis C is surrounded by a ton of misinformation and negative public opinion. The misconceptions about the virus make it even more challenging for people to seek treatment that could save their lives.
To sort the facts from the fiction, let’s debunk some of the popular hepatitis C myths.
Myth #1: Hepatitis C is a death sentence
This is one of the key fears of anyone newly diagnosed, but it’s largely untrue. Hepatitis C was first discovered in the late 1980s, and since then there have been significant treatment advances.
Plus, many new treatment options come in pill form, making them much less painful and invasive than older treatments.
Myth #2: I can only get hepatitis C if I’m a drug user
This is a common misconception. While some people who’ve had a history of using intravenous drugs have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, there are many other ways you can be exposed to the virus.
For instance, baby boomers are considered the population most at risk for hepatitis C simply because they were born before accurate blood screening protocols were mandated. This means anyone born between 1945 to 1965 should be tested for this virus.
Also, anyone who has had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, is on hemodialysis for their kidneys, or is living with HIV is also at a higher risk for hepatitis C.
Myth #3: I am either going to get cancer or need a transplant
Many people believe that liver cancer or a transplant are inevitabilities with hepatitis C, but this isn’t true. For every 100 people who receive a hepatitis C diagnosis, 5 to 20 people will develop cirrhosis and need to consider transplant options.
Furthermore, today’s antiviral drugs can reduce the possibility of developing liver cancer or cirrhosis.
Myth #4: I can’t spread the virus if I don’t have symptoms
This is one of the more dangerous myths out there about hepatitis C. Up to 80 percent of people with acute hepatitis C don’t develop symptoms until the disease has become chronic. This means that precautions should be taken regardless of how you’re feeling physically.
Although there’s a relatively small chance of spreading the virus sexually, it’s best to always practice safe sex measures. Also, though the risk of transmission from razors or toothbrushes is very low, try not to share either of these grooming tools.
Myth #5: Hepatitis C is easy to get
Hepatitis C is almost entirely transmitted only through the blood. It’s not airborne, and you can’t get it from a mosquito bite. You also can’t get or give hepatitis C by coughing, sneezing, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, kissing, breastfeeding, or being close to someone in the same room.
Having said that, people can get hepatitis C from a tainted tattoo needle, a dirty syringe, or unsanitary needle pricks. Babies may also be born with hepatitis C if their mothers have the virus.
Myth #6: If I have hepatitis C, I must also have the HIV virus
It’s much more likely to have both HIV and hepatitis C if you use injectable drugs. Between 50 to 90 percent of drug users who were exposed to HIV through a needle also have hepatitis C.
However, only 25 percent of people living with HIV who contracted the virus in other ways also have hepatitis C.
Myth #7: I have a high hepatitis C viral load, so that means my liver is already ruined
There is no correlation between your hepatitis C viral load and the progression of the virus. In fact, the only reason a doctor takes stock of your specific viral load is to diagnose you, monitor progress you have with your medications, and ensure the virus is undetectable when treatments end.
Myth #8: I can just get a vaccine and I’ll be safe from hepatitis C
Unlike for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there is currently no vaccination against hepatitis C. However, researchers are currently trying to develop one.
If you’re diagnosed with hepatitis C or suspect you might have come into contact with the virus, the best thing to do is arm yourself with information. Your doctor is there to answer any questions you might have.
Also, don’t be afraid to read up on hepatitis C from reputable sources. Knowledge, after all, is power, and it might just help you achieve the calmness of mind you deserve.