A Discussion with Seniors About Hepatitis C (HCV)

A recent spate of unexplainable hepatitis infections that are showing up in children has sparked some concerns among seniors who are wondering if they should be worried about this given its proximity to Covid and the vaccines. As of May 1, the World Health Organization has reported over two hundred confirmed cases of hepatitis in children with scores more under investigation. Here in the United States, over one hundred cases are under investigation and the CDC reports that these cases have shown up in at least twenty-five states.

Mysterious outbreak in children

Of those cases under investigation, all the children needed hospitalization and at least five have died. Several children have had liver transplants. The only commonality is the presence of adenovirus, a group of viruses that typically cause respiratory illnesses, such as a common cold, conjunctivitis, croup, bronchitis, or pneumonia. In children, adenoviruses usually cause infections in the respiratory and intestinal tract.

"The seniors I have spoken with," stated certified elder law attorney RJ Connelly III, "are concerned about this report and wondering if there is some connection with the coronavirus. Thus far, there has been nothing linking Covid with this outbreak. However, as sad and unfortunate as these infections are with children, this has once again sparked the topic of hepatitis among seniors. It is a discussion we need to have as today's seniors are a prime risk group for harboring hepatitis C, a viral form of the disease. All seniors should be educated about this so it's a perfect opportunity to have a talk with them about hepatitis awareness."

The Importance of the Liver

The liver is an amazing organ. Weighing in at just over three pounds and about the size of a football (making it the body's second-largest organ behind the skin), it can hold up to 13% of the body's blood supply and is the leader of the digestive system. In fact, the liver performs over five hundred tasks to keep the body healthy with the main ones being metabolic in nature.

Everything we eat, consume, or put on our bodies (food, alcohol, medication, perfumes, and yes, toxic substances) is filtered by the liver. It can detoxify the body by sending these unhealthy substances out through urine and stools. It is smart enough to be able to identify the "good" substances and store them as essential nutrients to be released when needed by the body. The liver also keeps the blood sugar in the body at stable levels.

This organ is often compared to a factory, breaking down fats that are eaten and converting excess carbohydrates and proteins into forms that can be utilized by the body later. It produces bile that ushers out waste products and toxins through the stool (bile gives the stool its color).

This is just a very brief description of what this remarkable organ does. So, you can see any damage done to the body's liver should be considered a serious and potentially deadly problem.

About Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. This inflammation can be caused by viruses, such as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E (add F and G...maybe), or by noninfectious agents (non-viral type). Non-viral hepatitis includes:

  • Toxic hepatitis - This type of hepatitis is caused by exposure to chemicals, drugs, and medications (including street drugs, prescription, over-the-counter medications, and even supplements).

  • Alcoholic hepatitis - This is just what it sounds like, inflammation caused by drinking too much alcohol that causes serious harm to the liver.

  • Autoimmune hepatitis - This is caused by the immune system attacking the liver. This attack can cause inflammation, scarring of the liver, liver cancer, and liver failure. Little is known as to why this occurs.

Viral Hepatitis

There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E. These five types are of greatest concern because of the amount of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemics these viruses spread. Let’s start with hepatitis A (HAV).

Hepatitis A (HAV)

This type of viral hepatitis is caused by the ingestion of fecal matter. Those who live in southern New England have heard the warnings after a heavy rainstorm not to ingest raw shellfish. This is because heavy rain tends to overwhelm sanitation systems causing a release of sewage into the waterways and eventually into the bay. Bivalves, such as oysters and clams, filter copious amounts of water when feeding. If shellfish are living in water that has been contaminated with stool containing HAV, the shellfish can carry the virus in their digestive systems and spread it to humans.

Once a person is infected, HAV can be spread to others through intimate kissing (oral secretions) or stool (poor hand washing or sexual behaviors). Poor hygiene by employees working in the foodservice industry is responsible for the major outbreaks of HAV in restaurants.

There have also been episodes of HAV infections because of lettuce and other leafy vegetables that are served raw. This has been traced to human waste in fields where these products are harvested (workers who defecate in the fields rather than using the available bathroom resources or have poor hygiene practices after using the bathroom).

HAV signs and symptoms typically don't appear until a person has had the virus for a few weeks. But not everyone with HAV develops symptoms, but if they appear, they can include fatigue, sudden nausea, and vomiting, abdominal pain, or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by the liver), clay-colored bowel movements, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, dark urine, joint pain, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice) and intense itching.

HAV is a hearty virus that can live outside of the body for months and can survive, under certain conditions, in seawater and dried feces. The disease is usually mild and does not result in any long-term issues for most people and the good news is, once infected with HAV, you cannot be infected again as the body develops antibodies against it. There is also a vaccine for HAV.

"HAV is a hearty virus that can live outside the body for months and can survive, under certain conditions, in seawater and dried feces."

Hepatitis B (HBV)

This type of hepatitis is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact but is sexually transmitted for the most part and does have serious side effects. For most, HBV tends to clear the body after several weeks, but for some, a chronic HBV infection will result.

HBV is a strong virus and 50 to 100 times easier to transmit than HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). HBV is found in infected blood, vaginal secretions, saliva, and semen. It can be transmitted through oral, vaginal, and anal sex, whether it occurs in a heterosexual or homosexual context.

There is some evidence that it can also be transmitted through deep kissing, especially if the partner wears braces or has open cuts or sores in their mouth. The chances of becoming infected with HBV rise as the number of sexual partners increases.