Before we did more research we had a mild panic attack. I was being calm and reassuring (though I did wonder about being a widower), and Cathy was terribly eager to do more research. Now we realize it is a manageable problem which does not pose a risk to our loved ones.
Still, we became concerned with three things:
- how bad is this?
- can she give it anyone else?
- how did she get it?
Can she give it to someone else? Apparently, there is no evidence that the hepatitis C virus can be transmitted by casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands, through foods, by sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, or by coughing or sneezing. At least we don't have to worry about Cathy getting other people sick.
A book Cathy is reading says that Hepatitis C is far more common in women than in men. This is due to the fact that women living in communities tend to be in constant contact, and it is possible to transmit hepatitis C through menstruation. Several articles I've read indicated that day-to-day contact in households may spread Hepatitis C. Because Cathy's mom lived with us for so long, she'll probably get tested as well. To cover all the bases, I'll probably get tested soon.
How did she get it? According to the CDC fact sheet on Hepatitis C, blood contact is a prime mode of transmission. So we are talking tattoos, drug use, manicures, cuts or sharing razors... The only risk here would be the sharing of razors...
Cathy was required to get blood tests before entering school 12 years ago, so she got Hepatitis C some time after entering college. According to former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, 40% of people who get Hepatitis C cannot determine how, and 10% really just have no clue. So, we may never know. What's odd is that Cathy had her blood tested just a few years ago (for a prescription she was starting) and she was fine at that time.
Apparently, Hepatitis C is really common; so common, it is also called the Silent Epidemic. About 2% of Americans have it and don't know it, and the symptoms might not show up for decades, so people are pretty bad off when they find out. God was gracious to us, as Cathy had no reason to order a blood test except to determine if she should change her diet to lower her cholesterol. Now we have to make sure she does not get Hepatitis A or B; the combination with Hepatitis C would likely kill her. Eeek!
"Thank You" to those that have emailed and commented to express your support and your pledge to pray. I will (naturally) update you as we learn more.