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Awareness to Action: North Country HealthCare’s Fight Against Hepatitis C

05/13/2024 by Taylor Holston

World hepatitis day and HIV/ HCV co-infection awareness with red yellow ribbon (isolated with clipping path) on person's hand support and old aged woodMay is Hepatitis Awareness Month, which is the perfect time to shed a little more light on this often misunderstood virus. Hepatitis C is a liver infection that can range from a mild illness that lasts a few weeks to a serious, lifelong condition.

Understanding the disease’s transmission, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for prevention and management. At North Country HealthCare, we are committed to providing comprehensive care for individuals affected by Hep C through our Substance Use Risk Reduction Education Program. We’ll talk more about that program later in this post.

What is Hepatitis C?

First, let’s talk about what Hepatitis C is and how it is commonly contracted. Hep C is a bloodborne virus that impacts the liver. It primarily spreads through contact with the blood of an infected person. This can happen through sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs, from mother to baby during childbirth, or rarely, through sexual contact.  HCV can be contracted through intranasal drug use, when sharing drug paraphernalia such as straws. It can also be transmitted through unhygienic tattoo or piercing needles. 

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Many people with Hepatitis C do not experience any symptoms for years. When symptoms do occur, they can be mild and vague, making them easy to overlook. Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Nausea or poor appetite
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements

It’s important to note that symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, and some individuals may remain asymptomatic for years.

How to Treat Hepatitis C

Advances in medical science have led to highly effective treatments for Hep C. The goal of treatment is to clear the virus from the body and prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. The most common treatment for Hepatitis C is a combination of antiviral medications. This can cure the disease in most cases. Treatment duration and medication type can vary based on the strain of the virus and other factors, so it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider for personalized, recommended treatment options. Everyone should be screened for Hep C at least once in their lifetime, and more often if ongoing risk factors are present.

How North Country HealthCare Can Help

As we mentioned earlier in this post, North Country HealthCare provides comprehensive care through our Substance Use Risk Reduction Education Program. This program offers a range of services including free testing, treatment linkage, risk reduction counseling, access to Narcan (naloxone), and other supportive services. These services go a long way in combating the spread of Hepatitis C and ensuring that individuals receive the care and support they need.

Since it is Hepatitis C Awareness Month, we wanted to educate our community about the preventative measures and treatment options that are available through NCHC. We encourage anyone who may be at risk to reach out and learn about our free testing.

If you or someone you know may be at risk, contact North Country HealthCare for testing and support services. Remember, early detection and treatment can make a huge difference when it comes to managing Hep C and preventing its long-term complications.

Categories: Health Tips, News

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