The San Quentin News “Health and Wellness Corner” column runs when articles are submitted for publication. A Centerforce health professional will answer questions that you submit about health issues. Feel free to ask questions about any medical concern that you have and it may be answered so that everyone can benefit. Put your questions in a U-Save-Em envelope addressed to: Health and Wellness Corner, Centerforce (Education Dept). Your name and number will be kept confidential.
In this edition we will address Hepatitis C
Approximately 40 percent of the men who enter the California prison system are infected with Hepatitis C, a very dangerous infection. Like Hepatitis A and B, Hepatitis C is a virus. Similar to Hepatitis B, adults who are infected with the Hepatitis C virus can either have an acute or chronic infection.
Few Hepatitis C adults (approximately 15 percent) are acutely infected and most people (approximately 85 percent) are chronically infected.
Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact with someone who has Hepatitis C. Blood-to-blood contact can happen when sharing needles, syringes, or when getting a tattoo. It can also happen when sharing razors, tooters, or anything that might have blood on it.
In order for the Hepatitis C virus to be transmitted, there has to be an entry point on the uninfected person that is exposed to the blood of someone who has Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can be spread through sex, though it is believed that this happens very rarely.
Some people with Hepatitis C have symptoms; others do not. Since the liver is a non-complaining organ, Hepatitis C can be damaging a liver and the person infected may not know it. Therefore, if you have engaged in any risky behavior, such as sharing needles, tattoo equipment, razors, or anything else that’s been exposed to blood, it is important to see a doctor and be tested.
Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease that for some people can result in long-term health problems and even death. However, having Hepatitis C is not a death sentence; there is treatment available that is appropriate for some people, but you must see your doctor to find out if it’s right for you.
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. Therefore, the only way to prevent yourself from getting it is to not share needles, tattoo equipment (including needle, barrel, and ink), tooters, cottons, crack pipes, or anything that may have been exposed to blood.
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