How Often Does Someone With Hepatitis C Get Cured?
The cure rate depends on a number of factors, including the length of time someone was infected before they began treatment, how well the patient followed their treatment protocol, whether the patient had any other concurrent medical concerns, and whether the patient continued to behaviors that led to consistent exposure to the hepatitis C virus. Overall, however, with proper medical intervention, the cure rate is 80-98%.
What Does It Mean When Someone With Hepatitis C Says They’re Cured?
For a doctor to proclaim that a patient with a hepatitis C infection has been cured, it means that the patient shows no sign of the virus in the blood stream 6 months after the end of taking the antiviral medication. Typically, the medication is taken for 12 weeks. At this point, if the virus is no longer visible in the blood, the patient is no longer in need of the antiviral medication. Looking at the overall experience, this means that, if a patient begins treatment immediately following diagnosis, the time from diagnosis to cure can be as little as 9 months. However, in some cases, the treatment can take longer than 12 weeks, as some viruses mutate and the drug protocol needs to be altered in order to properly treat the virus.
If You Are Cured, Does It Mean You Can Never Get Hepatitis C Again?
No. Unlike some medical situations where the person builds up a permanent immune system to an illness, hepatitis C is not this type of virus. The only way to avoid getting hepatitis C again is to learn about the ways a person can become infected, to compare those with one’s own behaviors and experiences, and to make choices that help to keep the person away from the opportunity to become infected again with the hepatitis C virus.
If I Had Hepatitis C And The Doctor Says I Am Cured, How Can I Protect Myself Against Relapse or Reinfection?
Patients who are considered cured by doctors from an experience with hepatitis C rarely, if ever, relapse. This is because the medication protocol is lengthy and the medication is strong enough to rid the body of the virus. A person may need longer treatment experiences if their genotype of the virus is resistant to the drug, however a person is not considered cured until so long after the drug protocol has completed that it is almost impossible for the virus to reemerge suddenly after so much time has passed. However, this says nothing about becoming reinfected. Many doctors believe that the best way to prevent reinfection is to do everything possible to make and keep your body healthy. This means avoiding the opportunity for exposure to the hepatitis C virus and other viruses as much as possible. If you became infected due to blood or blood product exposure, it is important to understand and use Universal Precautions when dealing with blood interactions in the future, such as in a hospital workplace setting or when aiding an injured person. If you became infected at an unlicensed tattoo parlor, all future tattoos should be obtained at a facility where legal requirements are followed that protect clients from exposure, including safe disposal of needles and using new and clean needles with each client. If you became infected via IV drug use, you may want to look into a needle exchange program so that you are only using clean needles. If you want to minimize or stop using IV drugs, you can contact a local hospital or clinic to inquire about treatment or rehabilitation programs available in your area. In addition, it is important to nourish your body with healthy foods, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and to exercise. These behaviors help to keep your immune system healthy, which allows it to have the best chance to fight any future viral interactions within your body.
In some cases, a person is unable or unwilling to live a lifestyle that is free from potential hepatitis C exposure. These people may include military members in combat who may come into contact with the blood of others without time or equipment to protect themselves, IV drug users who do not wish to quit, and people who enjoy being tattooed at underground shops or by artists who are unlicensed. In these cases, and in any situation where a person is exposed to the blood, blood products, or needles that may have the hepatitis C virus, it is important to be tested. If the exposure happens once, a visit to the local clinic can provide the information as to whether you were exposed to the virus. If the exposure happens frequently and the situation is not something within your control or it is not something you wish to change, it is important to be tested often for the hepatitis C virus. This way, if you have been exposed, you can be tested for infection and, if your test is positive, you can begin a treatment protocol quickly, before the virus becomes a chronic infection and before many of the permanent damage can begin to take place.1-7
Chen, A., Zeremski, M., Chauhan, R., Jacobson, I., Talal, A., & Michalak, T. (2013). Persistence of Hepatitis C Virus during and after Otherwise Clinically Successful Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C with Standard Pegylated Interferon α-2b and Ribavirin Therapy. PLOS ONE, 8(11), e80078. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080078
Faust, V. (2016). Learning about hepatitis C virus. The Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from http://www.phillytrib.com/news/health/learning-about-hepatitis-c-virus/article_c19bd016-2bdf-5a3e-92df-62eb5e7b0486.html
Hep C Relapses Are Uncommon Among Those Proclaimed Cured, But Reinfection is a Concern. (2016). POZ. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from https://www.poz.com/article/hep-c-relapses-uncommon-among-proclaimed-cured-reinfection-concern
Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public | Division of Viral Hepatitis | CDC. (2016). Cdc.gov. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm
Hospital eTool: Healthcare Wide Hazards - (Lack of) Universal Precautions. (2016). Osha.gov. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/hospital/hazards/univprec/univ.html
How Can I Prevent Giving Hepatitis C?. (2016). Hepc.liverfoundation.org. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from http://hepc.liverfoundation.org/diagnosis/prevent-giving-hepatitis-c/
Ward, J., Valdiserri, R., & Koh, H. (2012). Hepatitis C Virus Prevention, Care, and Treatment: From Policy to Practice. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 55(suppl 1), S58-S63. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/cis392