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Re: Hepatitis C

Re: Hepatitis C

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Posted by sean on July 27, 2000 at 16:28:14:

In Reply to: Hepatitis C posted by Worried on July 21, 2000 at 08:53:15:

: My husband, age 52, has always been healthy never needing a doctor. In October of 1999, he went in for a complete physical. Everything checked out, blood work was done. All levels were fine. A routine sygmoidoscopy was done. He was referred to two two specialists who did minor surgery - one to remove a nodule on his vocal chord that had been causing him some problems, and he had an endoscopy done to check for any problems relating to stomach fullness and heartburn. Nothing was found. In June of 2000, he had a very high fever and flu-like symptoms for a week. During that week, his primary dr. sent him for blood work three different times before finally admitting him to the hospital. A chest x-ray showed pneumonia, completely surprising the dr. as my husband had no cough during this time. He spent four days in the hospital receiving antibiotics. On the fifth day, as he was being released, we were told that one of the blood tests showed HepC. We were stunned. Alt levels were higher than at the time of his physical in October. Could he have contracted HepC from any of the surgeries he had. I have heard that contaminated equipment used can cause the virus. He swears he has been faithful to me and he has not injected any drugs. He did for a short time 30+ years ago. He also gave himself a tattoo when he was about 12. Could he have had the virus all along? Why, then would his blood levels be fine in October and then change in June? Our primary has not been any help at all, very vague with his answers to our questions. Is he protecting the surgeons involved? We have been married for 27 years, and I have to admit I am somewhat fearful when we are intimate. Why does the information I read say no risk to long-term partners, and yet tell you to use protection if you have many partners? Makes no sense. Also, information I read on the internet mentions if you were a veteran, you should be tested. Why? I love my dear husband and would like to get these questions resolved and don't know who to go to. We have an appointment with a gastro specialist in a few weeks. I keep thinking this is a fluke - that it really isn't happening. Any help you can give would be so appreciated.

Yes, surgery or any invasive medical procedure could be source of infection, although most health care workers and procedures have gotten so very much cleaner and more careful since HIV came on the scene. On the other hand, it is certainly possible to have been infected for years without ALT or other enzyme levels showing it. This is unusual but it happens. However, I would be very surprised if the blood tests your husband had in 1999 did not include an hcv antibody test. they are so common as to be routine nowadays, and it's almost impossible to believe he was not tested for various hep antibodies before his surgery, since this would be considered important info for someone entering the OR. the antibody tests can give false positives or negatives at times, so nothing is guaranteed, but these tests will usually show hcv infection, even if ALT or other levels are normal. so, it should be possible to find out if the infection is recent. (those medical records are your husband's. he should be able to read them just by asking.)

The risk of sexual transmission is low, but not zero. that is the reson for the apparently conflicting advice you see on the subject. Each couple has to make its own choices on this. More couselling from an experienced hapatologist or gastroenterologists seems definitely in order here.

Good luck. Do not panic. Hep C sounds a great deal worse than it turns out to be for most people. Not that it is trivial, just not a reason to run for the exits
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