July 26th 2006 - Copyright by Karen Vaughan, MSTOM, L.Ac.
Everyone should get tested for Hepatitis C according to recent recommendations. It is suspected that around 4.5 million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis C, and over 200 million around the world. It is MUCH easier to catch than AIDS, through many of the same transmission routes.
This makes hepatitis C one of the greatest public health threats faced in this century, and possibly one of the greatest threats to be faced in the next century. Many times more people are infected with hepatitis C than HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). Without swift intervention to curtail the spread of the disease, the death rate from hepatitis C will surpass that from AIDS in the near future and will only get worse.
This disease is fairly common but has a long incubation period. It is transmitted from blood, but you don't need to share needles or have unprotected sex. Pedicures are a major source- the pedicure jacuzzi chairs use recirculated water and tools or scrubstones (typically not sterilized) can transmit small amounts of blood. So can tattoos. And shared razors or toothbrushes or tongue scrapers.
Persons who may be at risk for hepatitis C are those who:
* received a blood transfusion prior to July 1992
* received blood, blood products, or solid organs from a donor who has hepatitis C
* injected street drugs or shared a needle with someone who has hepatitis C
* have been on long-term kidney dialysis
* as a healthcare worker had frequent contact with blood on the job
* had sex with a person who has hepatitis C
* shared personal items, such as toothbrushes and razors, with someone who has hepatitis C
* were born to hepatitis C infected mothers
* has a tattoo
* gets commercial pedicures
80% of persons have NO signs or symptoms. Those include:
* jaundice and yellow whites of the eyes
* dark urine
* abdominal pain
* right side rib pain
* loss of appetite
There is no vaccine for Hep C and the incubation time can last decades. The standard treatments, interferon and ribavirin are not terribly effective. There have been better results with treatment with Xiao Chai Hu San, a Chinese traditional herbal formula tested by Sloan Kettering which your herbally certified acupuncturist can prescribe. And you can get individually modified formulas from yor acupuncturist.
The risk for hepatitis C from tattoos comes from contamination of dyes or needles, or even tattoo artists checking their needles on themselves before starting in on the patient. When Robert Haley and colleague Paul Fischer analyzed blood tests from 626 patients who visited a clinic for problems not related to hepatitis, they calculated that the odds of C infection were 6.5 times greater among people with commercial tattoos.
"Commercially acquired tattoos," Haley wrote, "accounted for more than twice as many [hepatitis C] infections (41 percent) as injection-drug use (17 percent)." C also became more common with increasing tattoo size and more tattoos. Before getting a tattoo, you chould check the disease prevention precautions of your tattoo artist. Needles should be single use, filled and not re-dipped into pigments. The location should be sterile.
In NY the Post covered widespread unhygenic conditions in Manhattan nail spas that could spread boils, herpes, hepatitis, Microbacterium fortuitum, TB, even HIV. They found salons using credo blades or pumice stones, both of which are illegal (and charging extra for them). Tools were not sufficiently disinfected. Cuticles were extensively cut. Salons regularly flouted the one file or emery board per customer rule. And footbaths were regularly filthy, with scraps of cuticles or nail from prior customers. Manicurists were often unable to understand enough language to follow the law and many had gone to unlicensed schools. As in California, there are very few inspectors for the number of salons.
Hepatitis C has a very long incubation time. You can minimize the effects with regular use of milk thistle and schizandra, especially if things are fairly dormant. If you have active hepatitis C, see your acupuncturist for targeted herbal formulas.
Acupuncture and Herbs by Karen Vaughan, L.Ac in Park Slope and Manhattan.
118 East 37th Street, New York, NY 10016
Brooklyn, NY 11215
http://www.ihv.org/guides/hepatitis_C.html http://www.hcvets.com/data/transmission_methods/tattoos.htm http://www.beautytech.com/articles/nypost6-24-02.PDF