Hepatitis C virus (HCV) can cause permanent liver damage, and sometimes liver cancer. About 80 percent of the people who are infected with hepatitis C are unable to clear the virus from their bodies, becoming hepatitis C carriers. As long as the virus is in the body, it can be passed to other people. It can take as long as 20 years for symptoms of liver disease to appear. A special blood test for hepatitis C is the only way to tell if you have it.
It is mostly transmitted through exposure to infective blood. This may happen through transfusions of HCV-contaminated blood and blood products, contaminated injections during medical procedures, and through injection drug use. Sexual transmission is also possible, but is much less common. There is no vaccine for HCV.
HEPATITIS C VS. HEPATITIS B: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Hepatitis C Is spread through coming into contact with infected blood. This usually happens through sharing contaminated needles used for injected drugs.
Less often, hepatitis C is transmitted through sexual contact, birth to a mother with the hepatitis C virus, or a needlestick injury.
Hepatitis B This form of hepatitis is more likely to be spread by birth to an infected mother and sexual contact. Drug equipment and needlesticks are less likely causes. The virus can be spread by semen as well as blood.
Current or former injection drug users form the highest risk group for hepatitis C. If you had a blood transfusion before July 1992, you are also at risk.
For hepatitis B, the highest risk group is infants born to infected mothers. Others who have a high risk of hepatitis B are sex partners of infected persons and people with multiple sex partners.
In the Philippines, viral hepatitis remains a major public health concern. Getting tested isn’t the norm yet due to lack of public information. So who should get tested for Hepatitis C?
• Person who has used injection drugs not prescribed by a doctor
• Persons who received donated blood before 1992
• Persons who received organ transplant before 1992
• Persons who received long term hemodialysis
• Hemophiliacs who were treated with a blood product made before 1987
• Persons who show signs and symptoms of liver disease
• Health care workers who have had accidental exposure to blood
• Children born to mothers who have tested positive for Hepatitis C
Is there a way to cure it or prevent it? Former actor Derek Dee shares how.
He was a photographer in the 80s. He was an action star and movie producerin the 90s. He was married to Melanie Marquez with whom he has two stunning daughters— budding model/actress,Michelle and teacher based in the US, Maxine.
He is Derek Dee, now a businessman and the voice behind HepCured, a digital movement that promotes awareness and treatment of Hepatitis C.
Derek Dee with daughter Michelle
Speaking from personal experience, Derek avers that, “one of the most common causes of liver-based sicknesses is Hepatitis C. According the Word Hepatitis Alliance, about 80 to 150 million people are dealing daily with Hepatitis C. In spite of such a high-risk rate, public concern and information is limited.”
He says, “the main reason people die from Hepatitis C is because symptoms don’t show up until it is too late so you don’t know that you are sick”.His own discovery of the illness was by accident. A routine blood test four years ago revealed that he had the dreaded disease. Doctors and his own research suggested that he may have contracted it through the use of contaminated needles in his younger days, around 30 years ago.
“Four years ago, having Hepatitis C was a death sentence because there was no cure yet”.His search for a solution to his illness led him on a journey that brought him many heartaches and disappointments. The only option he found were drugs which had deadly side effects and low cure rates of 50%. So he decided not to seek treatment.
Then two years ago, a medicine with a cure rate of 94%-97% was discovered but it was prohibitively priced. So he went into the digital realm to research his chances of getting the medicine outside the US where the drug was priced cheaper. This led him to Singapore General Hospital Pharmacy which was willing to order the miracle drug for him at a slightly lower cost.
After getting the treatment, he is now free of the virus and is officially cured. But he realized that these drugs are not affordable and accessible to many. This started him on another journey looking for generic medicines from India which cost so much less (USD1,000) than the original price of USD90,000. And now, with the new generic treatments that are very affordable and just as effective as the originals, the cure is available to all.
Armed with this knowledge and powered by HepCured, Derek would like everyone to know that Hep C is just a word, not a sentence.He now shares his experiences and insights and communicate these findings to other Hepatitis C patients and the public in general.
“I had so much doubt getting into this because of the stigma. I didn’t really want to come out, I just wanted to keep quiet. But the mission came up when a friend I haven’t talked with in many years suddenly showed up and the first thing he told me was that he has Hep C and he didn’t know anything about it, he was not aware that there is a cure.Shortly after that incident, another friend got in touch with me, with the same story. That’s when I decided to speak up. It doesn’t matter what people will think of me, if my advocacy can save the lives of even a few, then it would have been worth it,” he explains.
To generate concern and action about Hepatitis C, Derek’s HepCured movement fires up the idea that the disease is something that happens to ordinary people. Common folk might have it and not even know it, as what happened to him. A person’s lifestyle 15 to 30 years ago could have damaged his or her liver without realizing it.
It is through constant updating and sharing of knowledge that the disease can be identified, battled, and defeated. He is doing this through the website and Facebook page of HepCured.Through HepCured, Hepatitis C patients can be part of a community of seekers for the cure, called The Cure Club. The Cure Club endeavors to search for treatments and remedies that are more accessibly priced and can be found in non-traditional sources.