The main differences between them are:
- Transmission: Hepatitis B is primarily spread through sexual contact, shared needles, or from mother to baby at birth. Hepatitis C is primarily spread through shared needles or other forms of direct contact with contaminated blood.
- Vaccine: There is a vaccine available for hepatitis B, but not for hepatitis C.
- Chronic infection: Chronic infection is more common with hepatitis B, with about 5-10% of infected individuals becoming carriers of the virus. In contrast, about 75-85% of people infected with hepatitis C develop chronic infection.
- Liver damage: Both hepatitis B and C can cause liver damage, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. However, hepatitis C tends to progress to liver damage more quickly than hepatitis B.
- Treatment: There are effective treatments available for both hepatitis B and C, but the treatment for hepatitis C has improved significantly in recent years and can now cure the infection in more than 90% of cases.
If you have been diagnosed with both hepatitis B and C, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:
- Seek medical care: It is important to see a healthcare provider who is experienced in treating viral hepatitis to manage your condition and monitor your liver health.
- Treatment: If you have chronic hepatitis B, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication to slow the progression of liver disease. If you have chronic hepatitis C, you may be eligible for antiviral therapy to cure the infection.
- Regular check-ups: You should have regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor your liver health and determine if any further treatment is necessary.
- Lifestyle changes: You should maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol, and getting regular exercise.
- Prevention: To prevent the spread of hepatitis B and C, it is important to practice safe behaviors such as using condoms during sexual activity, avoiding sharing needles or other items that could be contaminated with blood, and getting vaccinated against hepatitis B.
- Mental health support: Living with a chronic illness can be challenging, so it is important to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if needed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends antiviral therapy as the preferred treatment for chronic hepatitis C infection. The goal of treatment is to cure the infection, which means achieving a sustained virologic response (SVR), or undetectable virus in the blood, for at least 12 weeks after finishing treatment.
Antiviral therapy, like Epclusa or Harvoni, for hepatitis C typically involves taking a combination of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medications for 8-12 weeks. DAAs target specific enzymes in the hepatitis C virus and have been shown to cure the infection in over 90% of cases.
The type of antiviral therapy recommended for an individual with hepatitis C will depend on several factors, including the genotype of the virus, prior treatment history, and the presence of any other medical conditions. A healthcare provider experienced in treating hepatitis C should make the final decision on the best treatment plan.
It’s important to note that treatment for hepatitis C should only be started under the guidance of a healthcare provider and with regular monitoring of liver function and virus levels in the blood.