A study from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland has shown that 1 in 2 of all children over 1 year old are now infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), an increase from earlier years, when HCV was almost nonexistent in newborns.
HCV is a viral infection of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer in later life. The new disease affects 2,476 babies each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 90 percent of all newborns exposed to HCV during birth are identified, and the majority of these babies receive hepatitis treatment. Those who continue to develop HCV after this period have no guarantee of survival. There is no cure for this virus.
Hepatitis C is highly infectious. People who carry the virus without symptoms will only be able to transmit it through sexual contact or through blood and tissue exchange. HCV primarily spreads through blood transfusions and organ transplants, and long-term viral infections can be prevented through safe injection practices and breastfeeding. The five most common blood types include A, B, AB, ABH, and O.
This genetic basis of HCV infection can leave its genetic legacy. University of Maryland researchers found that children who are both infected with HCV at birth and show evidence of an early immune response to the virus are significantly more likely to develop hepatitis than those who do not. The study found that HCV-positive and HCV-negative infants had increases in both hepatic and hepatic-toxicity by 3 years of age. HCV-positive children also had higher hepatitis C rates (56 percent) than those without HCV (44 percent). The scientists also found that HCV-positive children have a much stronger immune response to the virus, and this boost was associated with higher rates of liver disease and death from hepatitis.
There is no cure for hepatitis C, but drugs can slow the progression of the disease by at least 70 percent. These antiviral drugs do not cure the disease, and they are only effective when taken for a minimum of six months. In many cases, the antiviral drugs do not give a child a complete cure and are therefore recommended for use only in children who cannot tolerate the permanent side effects of antiviral drugs. These children will continue to carry the virus for the rest of their lives.
These drugs are only recommended for use in newborns because previous research shows that children who are infected with HCV at birth may be more likely to develop a life-threatening liver disease later on. The therapies used in newborns are much more effective at preventing cirrhosis than curing it. Women who contract HCV during pregnancy will pass the virus to their baby, and women who do not contract HCV will develop an infection that can spread to their infants if the baby is born without protective antibodies. HCV-positive women who are breastfeeding are also at risk of transmitting the virus to their children later in life. Hepatitis B is the second most common infectious disease among children after hepatitis C.
Both HCV and other diseases carried by people who have been infected with hepatitis B during pregnancy are also very dangerous for children and young adults, who tend to have a higher risk of hepatitis B disease. The disease’s chance of developing is 70 percent if it is diagnosed in a newborn child, and 85 percent in the first five years of life. HCV may be passed to a newborn by a parent who is infected with the virus. Additionally, unvaccinated newborns may still have the virus in their blood, but vaccine coverage may be low enough in their birth community to block transmission from the parents, and any viral shedding in the mother may not be detected until after the infant is born.
People who are born with hepatitis C often feel really sad about it. It really makes you sad knowing what could happen to you and the other person who is infected. It really messes with your mind and makes you feel very sick and is basically a nightmare. But there is a way to make it better and save your life, which is to have the correct treatment as soon as you are identified. You need the right antiviral drugs to prevent your illness, and you also need a strong immune system because a vaccine doesn’t always stop all the disease. In short, the antiviral drugs can save your life.
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