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Hepatitis C (HCV )

Hepatitis C 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 life-threatening liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.

Transmission

  • 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.

At-Risk Groups

  • "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 drug preparation equipment, 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) through sharing contaminated straws or other equipment used for snorting.
  • Healthcare or public safety workers after exposures (e.g. needle sticks or splashes to the eye) to HCV-positive blood on the job.
  • People with hemophilia treated with blood products before 1987 when there were no effective methods to test for hepatitis C virus in clotting factor products.
  • Blood transfusions or solid organ transplants recipients who received the tranfusion or transplant prior to July 1992.
  • Hemodialysis patients, long-term.
  • Sexual partners of people with hepatitis C virus or multiple sexual partners: The risk of transmission between steady (monogamous) partners appears to be quite low, and there is no current recommendation for changes in sexual practices for persons with a steady sexual partner. People with multiple sexual partners are, however, at higher risk of becoming infected.
  • Infants born to mothers infected with the hepatitis C virus.
  • People living with a hepatitis - infected person through sharing blood contaminated personal items, such as toothbrushes, and razors.

If you are at risk for hepatitis C infection, contact your doctor or get tested at a HCV Counseling, Testing, and Referral Site. Early diagnosis will help prevent spreading the disease and protect your liver.

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.

What you should do

To avoid Hepatitis C

  • Don't ever shoot drugs or snort drugs. If you do shoot/snort stop and get into a treatment program. It you cannot, never share needles, water, 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 think you have Hepatitis C

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

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)