I have the utmost respect for first responders. They have the unfortunate task of dealing with trauma and disease exposure on a daily basis. They are some of the unsung heroes of society by going to help those who can’t run out. In the end, they are also human and make mistakes but mistakes usually affect their personal health. Here is a situation: an emergency call comes in of a possible drug overdose. EMTs rush to the scene and find the drug addict unresponsive, with a needle still stuck in his arm. In order to treat the addict, they try to remove the needle and as they do, the addict starts jerking around, causing the needle to inadvertently prick the EMT. I can think of hundreds of diseases that can automatically infect that person. A common one is Hepatitis C (Hep C, #Hepatitis C).
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that mostly affects the liver via cirrhosis or scarring and leads to inflammation. There are 6 genotypes of the Hep C (#Hep C) virus numbered 1-6. Type 1 is the most common while type 4-6 are very rare. The virus is not transferred by food water or casual contact such as a handshake. Since the hepatitis c virus can only survive in our blood, the most common forms of infection are sharing drugs and needles or being stuck by infected needles, sexual intercourse especially if you have a sexually transmitted disease, HIV infection, multiple partners or rough sex and by birth since a mother can pass it to her child. The Hepatitis C virus can even survive in blood outside the body for up to 16 hours. If you get chronic hepatitis c infections, chances are you will need a liver transplant.
This virus is considered a silent killer since there are very few symptoms associated with an infection. You will not know that you have been infected. If you leave it untreated, it will cause liver damage and liver cancer. But all hope is not lost. There are medications on the market and new ones constantly being developed for Hep C treatment. One such drug is called Virazole (ribavirin).
What Is Ribavirin?
Ribavirin (Virazole) is a ribonucleic acid (guanosine) analog used to stop viral RNA synthesis. Let me explain to simplify this. Every living human cell has DNA and RNA. the DNA is basically the biological blueprint (genes) of the cell while RNA is the workers that make sure the blueprint is carried out during the cell division. There are various forms of RNA that make proteins for enzymes, transfer information and do other functions to ensure that DNA is copied perfectly. So the Hep C virus attacks and attached itself to RNA so it can self replicate. Ribavirin is called a prodrug because it mimics the proteins RNA needs to function. This is the reason why it is an anti-viral nucleoside inhibitor. So when it attached itself to RNA, the it interferes with RNA metabolism required for viral replication. This in essence stops the viral infection.
Due to the nature of how Ribavirin works, it has been found to be effective against unrelated viruses from diverse families such as respiratory tract infections, influenza, measles, herpes, hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome and , Lassa fever. This drug was also found to suppress the replication of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in certain scenarios and in combination with midazolam, ketamine and amantadine, it’s used in the treatment of rabies.
Ribavirin was approved to treat severe lung infections caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It also has been used to treat Hep C but the information given to doctors has been incorrect. You see, Ribavirin by itself is not effective for the treatment of chronic Hep C virus infection and should not be used alone. It needs an interferon medicine to help treat Hep C. This drug is not like Harvoni which is a combination of 2 anti viral medications and is successful to treat Hep C.
The main significant side effect for Ribavirin is hemolytic anemia which is the abnormal breakdown of red blood cells either in the blood vessels or in some other parts of the body. This is important since red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients to the entire body. As a result, you will see an increase in cardiac disease and fatal as well as non-fatal heart attacks. So if you have had a previous history of heart conditions, this medication is not right for you. Other minor side effects include: vision problems, fever, chills, body aches, stabbing chest pain, shortness of breath, severe depression, hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, pale or yellowed skin, dark-colored urine, easy bruising or bleeding, confusion, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, anxiety and mood changes.
Women are the most vulnerable especially if they are pregnant or become pregnant while using this drug. Due to the risks towards the fetus, pregnancy must be avoided during treatment and for an additional 6 months after completion. This is not just for women but also for men which can transfer the drug during sex. The effects of Ribavirin are serious enough that warnings have been placed on the boxes as well as associated medical forms.
What medications are you using to manage your Hep C infection?