Hep C (Hepatitis C)

Hep C (Hepatitis C) is is a viral liver disease. It is found in the blood of a person infected with Hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C was formerly called nonA-nonB hepatitis. There is no preventive vaccine for HCV but early diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis C can help prevent complications such as liver cancer and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).

At-Risk Populations

  • "Baby Boomers" (people born in the United States between 1945 and 1965) are five times more likely than others to be infected with Hepatitis C. Most Boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C were highest. Many could have become infected from contaminated blood and blood products before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992 and universal precautions were adopted. (more)
  • Injecting drug users transfer the virus by sharing needles or "works" (i.e. drug preparation equipment) that's contaminated with infected blood. This includes users who have only injected once or a few times many years ago, even decades ago.
  • Intranasal drug users (i.e. cocaine use) transfer the virus by sharing contaminated straws or other equipment used for snorting. This also includes users who have only snorted once or a few times many years ago, even decades ago.
  • People living with HIV.
  • Blood transfusions or solid organ transplants recipients who received the transfusion or transplant before 1992.
  • Hemodialysis patients.
  • Anyone with signs or symptoms of liver disease (e.g. abnormal liver blood tests).
  • Children born to women with hepatitis C.
  • Recipients of an unsafe injection,(e.g. steroids), and unsafe tattoo or piercing.
  • People born in countries where a large proportion of the population has Hepatitis C, such as Egypt.

Symptoms

Most people who are infected with the Hepatitis C virus have no symptoms, however, they can still infect others. Individuals that are infected with the virus and become ill may exhibit symptoms including: loss of appetite, vague abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), fever or fatigue. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

People infected with Hepatitis C often have no symptoms and can live with an infection for decades without feeling sick.

How It Spreads

  • Hepatitis C is spread by exposure to blood of an infected person. People with the virus can spread it even if they have no symptoms.
  • The virus is NOT spread through casual contact or in typical school, office, or food service settings. For example, it is not spread by coughing, sneezing, hugging, or drinking out of the same glass.

Prevention

  • Don't ever shoot drugs or snort drugs. If you do shoot/snort stop and get into a treatment program. If you cannot, never share needles, water, straws/bills, or "works".(more)
  • Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal care articles. They might have blood on them.
  • If you are a healthcare or public safety worker, always follow routine barrier precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps.(more)
  • Consider the health risks if you are thinking about getting a tattoo or body piercing. You can get infected if the tools that are used have someone else's blood on them.
  • Practice safer sex.(more)

If you are infected with the Hepatitis C virus:

  • Do not donate your blood, body organs, other tissue, or sperm.
  • Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal care articles that might have blood on them.
  • Cover your cuts or open sores.
  • Do not shoot or snort drugs. (more)
  • Practice safer sex. (more)
  • Talk to your doctor about you and your sex partner getting tested.
  • Get hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations to protect your liver from these infections.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Get support. (more)

Testing & Diagnosis

Contact your primary care physician or go to a state-funded HCV Counseling, Testing, and Referral Site.

Treatment

Treatment for acute Hepatitis C (HCV) is similar to treatment for chronic Hepatitis C. The response rate to treatment is higher among persons with acute than with chronic HCV infection. However, the optimal treatment regimen and when it should be initiated remains uncertain.(more)

Until recently, the mainstay of treatment for chronic HCV infection has been pegylated interferon and ribavirin, with possible addition of boceprevir (Victrelis) and telaprevir (Incivek) (both protease inhibitors) for HCV genotype 1 infection. After given for 24-48 weeks, this treatment resulted in a sustained virologic response (a marker for cure), defined as undetectable HCV RNA in the patient's blood 24 weeks after the end of treatment in 50-percent to 80-percent of patients (with higher SVR among persons with HCV genotypes 2 or 3 infections versus infections with HCV genotype 1, the most common genotype found in the United States). (more)

In late 2013, The Food and Drug Administration approved two new direct acting antiviral drugs, Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) and Simeprevir (Olysio) to treat chronic HCV infection. Both medications have proven efficacy when used as a component of a combination antiviral regimen to treat HCV-infected adults with compensated liver disease, cirrhosis, HIV co-infection, and hepatocellular carcinoma awaiting liver transplant. Clinical trials have shown that these new medications achieve SVR in 80-percent to 95-percent of patients after 12-24 weeks of treatment. (more)

FDA maintains a complete list of viral hepatitis therapies that are approved for treatment of Hepatitis C. (more)