Similarities and Differences between COVID-19 and Hepatitis C
As we move through this new pandemic, it is becoming apparent that there are similarities and differences between COVID-19 and hepatitis C.
What are the long-term impacts of COVID-19?
What has struck me in my reading and hearing about COVID are what some are calling “long-haulers” with COVID. The term is used to describe people who contract the infection and struggle with ongoing symptoms and conditions long after they should be recovered from the virus. It is too early in the research to really know how long the impacts of COVID-19 will remain, and recovery is still not well-understood. The resulting health conditions run the gamut, according to the stories I have seen, and some have been more readily shown themselves to be potentially life-altering.
For example, the cases of cardiovascular damage may be the most commonly reported. But there are many others, and some are eerily familiar to those of us in the hep C community, such as neuropathy and cognitive impairment, kidney issues, and so on.
What does it mean for people with hepatitis C?
As I have said for years, as science shows us, and I am not alone, overtime, the hep C virus can cause a variety of extra-hepatic manifestations that are not dissimilar to what we are seeing with COVID patients. What are the implications for people who are already dealing with these issues, if also affected by a new virus, as in COVID-19? We don’t know is the answer. COVID has not been with us long enough to do the studies required to make statement about the longer-term impacts and outcomes for people in the hep C community.
One big difference is that, as far as we know, there is no chronic COVID infection like we see with 75% of people exposed to hep C. However, it would seem that although there is no chronic condition that can cause damage over the years, like with hep C, COVID does its destruction very quickly, within weeks, as an acute infection.
I am no infectious disease specialist or researcher, but it is clear to me that these viral infections will be with us for some time yet. Even though, like with what we see with hep C, we can defeat the COVID virus, there will be new ones that challenge us in the future. It is my hope that we can defeat COVID sooner rather than later, and that therapies, that are increasingly more effective, help to save lives and improve long-term outcomes for people with any virus. What we learn with each of these viruses will help us to unlock the answer on existing infectious disease and new ones alike. We have made great strides in HIV treatments and others, and I am confident we will overcome others as well.
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