Does My Age Impact My Likelihood of Getting HCV Pt. 2

Check out Part 1 of Does My Age Impact My Likelihood of Getting HCV.

From Childhood to Young Adulthood

In some cases, a mother or doctor has suspected that the child has been exposed to hepatitis C before they have reached childhood.  This may be due to the mother’s viral status or it may be due to the child being exposed to the hepatitis C virus at some point during delivery or infancy.  This may cause the family of the child or the pediatrician to decide to test the child for the virus, both to check whether the body has been exposed and to see whether the child has a viral indication of hepatitis C and may need a medical intervention to remove the virus from their body.  If a child reaches age 3 and has signs of hepatitis C, the doctor will discuss treatment options with the child’s parents. This may include weighing the most likely side effects of different drug options and running additional tests on the child’s blood and organs to find out the extent and severity of the virus and any damage the virus may have caused.

During this time, children are typically not exposed to situations where they may come into contact with the hepatitis C virus and most children are not tested for hepatitis C during general visits to their pediatrician.

Adulthood to Elder

During this time, the risk of exposure to hepatitis C is the highest. This is both because this period is the bulk of a person’s lifetime and because this is the time in which a person makes most of their decisions independently. The most common causes of exposure to the hepatitis C virus are through IV drug use and through being tattooed at an unlicensed tattoo parlor. Both of these situations typically do not occur except during adulthood. In either case, it is important for a person who has used an unclean needle to be tested for hepatitis C. Many people do not show symptoms of the virus until the damage is severe, so most doctors recommend testing on a regular basis during any period in which the person is acting in any manner that puts them at risk of exposure.

During this age range, there is also an increased risk due to the experience of dating and partnering.  This is because sharing razors and toothbrushes or helping to tend to someone with even a minor papercut or kitchen accident can also cause a person to be exposed to hepatitis C if their partner has been infected.  This is a fairly uncommon method of transmission, but it may still occur.

In addition, medical professionals and anyone working in a job where they are regularly exposed to blood or blood products are often encouraged to be tested on a regular basis. This is because they may not know that the blood they have interacted with has the hepatitis C virus. Sports coaches, gym teachers, physical trainers, and anyone whose careers or lifestyles include being exposed to the blood of others may be at risk and it is important that testing be done regularly in order to both begin treatment if the virus is present and so that they can better protect others in case their own blood is shed.

From Elder to End of Life

All blood transfusions and organ donations have been tested for hepatitis C in the United States since 1992. Anyone who has received either before then is encouraged to be tested at least once, as is anyone of the Baby Boomer generation, as hepatitis C testing was not regularly available or recommended before the early 1990s. Since symptoms may not show, doctors recommend this testing in order to ensure that an elder is not unknowingly carrying the hepatitis C virus. The risk to elders often depends on the elder’s personal behaviors, as well as the safety and health of any facilities they may be visiting or living within.

In some cases, elders are engaging in IV drug use or are being tattooed at unlicensed tattoo parlors. In more common situations, elders may be reusing needles or sharing needles with friends while taking their daily required medications. Sharing diabetes testing tools or any other objects that collects or interacts with blood may also be occurring. Although some elders make these choices in an attempt to save money on medical supplies, these behaviors may be creating an experience of exposure to the hepatitis C virus. If an elder cannot afford new and sterilized needles or testing supplies, they can contact their physician or clinic and request access to local or national programs that supplement these supplies to those who cannot afford them.1-4

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