How Can You Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease. The main source of infection is from blood from an infected person.
- Most cases are caused by using contaminated needles or injecting equipment to inject drugs . Even a tiny amount of an infected person’s blood left on a needle is enough to cause spread to others.
- Some people who received blood transfusions or blood prior to 1991 were infected with hepatitis C from some donor blood. Since 1991 all blood and blood products donated in the UK are screened for HCV.
- There is also a risk of contracting hepatitis C from needlestick accidents, or other injuries involving blood spillage from infected people.
- There is a small risk of contracting the virus from sharing toothbrushes, razors and other such items which may be contaminated with infected blood.
- There is even a small risk from inhaling drugs like cocaine, as these can make the inside of your nose bleed. If that happens, tiny spots of blood can fall on to the note you are using and, if that is used by someone else, your blood can travel up their nose and into their bloodstream.
- There is also a small risk from re-used equipment used for tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture, etc.
- There is a small risk that an infected mother can pass on the infection to her baby.
- There is a small risk that an infected person can pass on the virus whilst having sex.
The virus is not passed on during normal social contact, such as holding hands, hugging, or sharing cups or crockery.
When To Seek Medical Advice
See your GP if you persistently have any of the later symptoms listed, or if they keep returning. They may recommend having a blood test that can check for hepatitis C.
Read more about diagnosing hepatitis C
None of these symptoms mean you definitely have hepatitis C, but it’s important to get them checked out.
You should also speak to your GP about getting tested if there’s a risk you’re infected, even if you don’t have any symptoms. This particularly includes people who inject drugs or have done so in the past.
Read about the causes of hepatitis C for more information about who’s at risk of having the infection.
Page last reviewed: 27 October 2021 Next review due: 27 October 2024
What Is The Treatment For Hepatitis C
The treatment for hepatitis C has advanced in recent years which has greatly improved the outlook for people with hepatitis C. The main aim of treatment is to clear HCV from the body and so prevent severe liver damage leading to cirrhosis.
If you have acute hepatitis C, you may not need treatment, but will be monitored carefully to see if your body clears the virus on its own, and to keep an eye out for liver damage. Treatment with medicines is advised for most people with chronic hepatitis C. The type of treatment will depend on various factors, including the type of HCV, the severity of the infection and your own health. The treatments recommended are changing all the time as the treatment of hepatitis C is a developing area of medicine. New treatments continue to be developed. The specialist who knows your case can give more accurate information about the outlook for your particular situation. They can also advise on the side-effects you can expect with each individual treatment. Treatment length varies, depending on your situation, and can last from two months to nearly a year.
However, newer treatment combinations have been found to be more effective in many cases. Sometimes these are used along with ribavirin. There are quite a few different medicines used and recommendations change frequently in this rapidly developing field.
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What Do Hepatitis C Symptoms Look Like
Hepatitis C infection can go through two stages: acute and chronic. In the early, or acute stage, most people don’t have symptoms. If they do develop symptoms, these can include:
- flu-like symptoms, tiredness, high temperature and aches and pains
- loss of appetite
- tummy pain
- jaundice, meaning your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow
While for some people, the infection will clear without treatment, in most cases, acute infection will develop into long-term chronic infection. Chronic infection may not become apparent for a number of years until the liver displays signs of damage. These symptoms can include:
- mental confusion and depression these are specific to hepatitis C
- constantly feeling tired
- nausea, vomiting or tummy pain
- dark urine
- feeling bloated
- joint and muscle pain
Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver , which can cause the liver to stop working properly. A small number of people with cirrhosis develop liver cancer and these complications can lead to death. Other than a liver transplant, theres no cure for cirrhosis. However, treatments can help relieve some of the symptoms.
Articles On Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a sneaky virus. You may not have any symptoms at all. Most people donât. This is one if the reasons, along with treatability now, that all adults are recommended to get tested. Your doctor could check your liver and see only a little damage. You’re usually not diagnosed until they spot a problem with your liver enzymes after a routine blood test.
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It’s Tricky Because Hep C Doesn’t Often Present Symptoms At All
Lanla Conteh, M.D., clinical associate professor of hepatology and gastroenterology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, in Columbus, OH, discusses the symptoms of hepatitis C.
One of the problems with hepatitis C virus is that we do not tend to see early symptoms when people get the virus. Unfortunately, when many people get infected with the virus, they oftentimes do not know, because it does not cause any symptoms.
If and when people do get symptoms with hepatitis C, which again, is not common, some of those symptoms tend to be yellowing of the skin or the eyes, something called jaundice. They can also experience nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen that tends to be on the right upper side.
Again, these signs of early hepatitis C are not very common, because most people do not have any symptoms when they get the virus.
Spread Of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact when blood from a person with hepatitis C enters another persons bloodstream.
The most common way people become infected with hepatitis C in Australia is by sharing injecting equipment such as needles, syringes, spoons and tourniquets. It is possible to be infected with hepatitis C after only one risk event.
Hepatitis C may also be spread through:
- tattooing and body piercing with equipment that has not been properly cleaned, disinfected or sterilised such as backyard tattoos’. Registered parlours with appropriate infection control procedures are not a risk
- needlestick injuries in a healthcare setting
- receiving blood transfusions in Australia prior to 1990 before hepatitis C virus testing of blood donations was introduced
- medical procedures, blood transfusions or blood products and mass immunisation programs provided in a country other than Australia
- pregnancy or childbirth there is a 5% chance of a mother with chronic hepatitis C infection passing on the virus to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth.
Breastfeeding is safe, however if nipples are cracked or bleeding cease breastfeeding until they have healed.
Less likely possible routes of transmission of hepatitis C include:
Hepatitis C cannot be transmitted by:
- sharing food, cups or cutlery
- shaking hands or day-to-day physical contact.
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Willowbrook State School Experiments
A New York University researcher named Saul Krugman continued this research into the 1950s and 1960s, most infamously with his experiments on mentally disabled children at the Willowbrook State School in New York, a crowded urban facility where hepatitis infections were highly endemic to the student body. Krugman injected students with gamma globulin, a type of antibody. After observing the temporary protection against infection this antibody provided, he then tried injected live hepatitis virus into students. Krugman also controversially took feces from infected students, blended it into milkshakes, and fed it to newly admitted children.
Ive Never Used Iv Drugs Or Been Stuck With A Dirty Needle How Did I Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is usually spread through direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease. It can also be transmitted by needles used for tattooing or body piercing. In rare cases, hepatitis C can be passed from a mother to her unborn baby. This virus can be transmitted through sex, sharing razors or toothbrushes, although these occurrences are also rare. Many times, the cause of hepatitis C is never found.
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Medications For Hepatitis C
Medications called direct-acting antivirals work to fully remove the hepatitis C virus from your body while helping prevent liver damage at the same time.
A few brand names of these medications include:
6 different genotypes , or strains, of hepatitis C.
Once your doctor or other healthcare professional knows your genotype, theyll have a better idea of which medication will work best for you. Some strains have developed a resistance to some medications, so your genotype can affect your treatment options.
How Can I Cover Medication Costs
New therapies called direct-acting antivirals are effective and can achieve cures of over 90%. Because these new therapies are very new, they remain very expensive. As such, drug coverage from both government and private companies may require that your liver disease has progressed to a certain stage before they are willing to cover the cost of these drugs.
Talk with your healthcare provider about financial support that may be available.
Below are useful resources when looking for financial assistance:Private health insurance or drug plansIf you have private health insurance or a drug plan at work, you may be able to have the medication paid through your plan. Please consult your private health insurance or drug plan provider to see if your drug is covered.
Publicly funded plansEach provincial and territorial government offers a drug benefit plan for eligible groups. Some are income-based universal programs. Most have specific programs for population groups that may require more enhanced coverage for high drug costs. These groups include seniors, recipients of social assistance, and individuals with diseases or conditions that are associated with high drug costs. For more details, please contact your provincial or territorial health care ministry, or click on the appropriate link below.
Available Patient Assistance Programs for Hepatitis C treatment Holkira Pak Maviret
MerckCare Hepatitis C Program 1 872-5773 Zepatier
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Who Should Be Screened For Hepatitis C
The United States Preventive Screening Task Force recommends screening for HCV infection in persons at high risk for infection due to life style factors or exposures. The USPSTF also recommends offering 1-time screening for HCV infection to adults born between 1945 and 1965.
A simple blood test is all that is required to find out if you have the virus. If you do have it, your doctor will order more tests to determine the âviral loadâ your blood contains and the extent to which your liver may be damaged.
How Is Hepatitis C Treated
Significant progress has been made in treating and even curing hepatitis C. Older hepatitis C treatments usually required weekly injections, had serious side effects, and often were not effective.
New and better oral medicines now can cure HCV for many people within 3 months. The new medicines were very expensive at first, but their prices have come down, a trend that health experts hope will continue as the incidence of HCV rises and increased screening brings more cases to light.
These medicines successfully cure about 90% of HCV patients. A new oral medicine under development looks promising for the 10% who don’t respond to the standard treatment. This new antiviral combination pill is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration .
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Treating Hepatitis C Matters
When you see your doctor and start treatment for a chronic hep C infection, you can prevent these problems, improve them, or keep them from getting worse. New drugs can clear the virus from your body in a few months with fewer side effects than older medicines. If thereâs no virus in your blood 3 months after treatment, youâre considered cured.
Getting rid of the infection protects others, too. Hepatitis C spreads through blood-to-blood contact. You could infect a loved one if you accidentally use their toothbrush or cut yourself and donât clean up the blood properly. People who get hep C treatment greatly lower the odds that they will pass the virus to someone else.
If you arenât sure if you have hepatitis C, talk to your doctor to see if you should get tested. Learn why you should get tested for hepatitis C.
Contaminated Needles And Infected Blood
You can get hepatitis C from sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment during recreational drug use. Banknotes and straws used for snorting may also pass the virus on.
Being exposed to unsterilised tattoo and body piercing equipment can also pass hepatitis C on. Occasionally, you can get it from sharing a towel, razor blades or a toothbrush if there is infected blood on them.
Hepatitis C infection is also passed on in healthcare settings, from needle stick injuries or from medical and dental equipment that has not been properly sterilised. In countries where blood products are not routinely screened, you can also get hepatitis C by receiving a transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
You can prevent hepatitis C by:
- never sharing needles and syringes or other items that may be contaminated with infected blood
- only having tattoos, body piercings or acupuncture in a professional setting, where new, sterile needles are used
- following the standard infection control precautions, if youre working in a healthcare setting.
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Could I Give Hepatitis C To Someone Else
Yes, once you have hepatitis C, you can always give it to someone else. If you have hepatitis C, you cannot donate blood. You should avoid sharing personal items like razors and toothbrushes, although it is very rare to pass hepatitis C in these ways. Always use a condom when you have sex. If you have hepatitis C, your sexual partners should be tested to see if they also have it.
Contact your healthcare provider first if you want to have children. The virus isnt spread easily from a mother to her unborn baby, but it is possible so you need to take precautions. However, if youre trying to have a baby, do not have sex during your menstrual cycle, because the hepatitis C virus spreads more easily in menstrual blood.
Possible Complications Of Hepatitis C
Theres one main complication of acute hepatitis C: It could become chronic.
- Cirrhosis. With cirrhosis, scar tissue gradually replaces healthy tissue in your liver, blocking blood flow and disrupting liver function. Cirrhosis can eventually lead to liver failure.
- Liver cancer. Having chronic hepatitis C raises your risk for eventually developing liver cancer. If you develop cirrhosis or your liver is very damaged before treatment, youll still have a higher risk for cancer after getting treated.
- Liver failure. It takes a long time for your liver to fail. Liver failure, or end-stage liver disease, happens slowly over months, often years. When your liver becomes unable to function properly, youll need a transplant.
If you believe you contracted the hepatitis C virus, a good next step involves reaching out to a healthcare professional. Getting timely treatment can lower your risk for experiencing serious complications.
The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner your healthcare professional can start a treatment plan.
Currently, the best way to protect yourself from the hepatitis C virus is to avoid using any items that may have come into contact with someone elses blood.
You can do this by:
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Is There A Treatment For Hepatitis C
You should discuss treatment with a healthcare provider if you have hepatitis C.
The standard method of treatment for hepatitis C is a combination of antiviral medicines. Your healthcare provider will prescribe a full course of the medicines, then check the level of hepatitis C in your blood after you have completed the treatment. If there is still a significant amount of the virus in your system, your healthcare provider may recommend another course of medicine.
Should You Get Tested For Hepatitis C
Since you can live with hep C for decades without knowing itit can take 10 to 40 years for hep C to progress from mild disease to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancerthe Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends a one-time blood screening test for anyone born between 1945 and 1965. This population is more at risk of having received a tainted blood transfusion.
Hepatitis C can only be diagnosed through a simple blood test called an HCV antibody test. True to its name, it looks for antibodies, proteins released into the bloodstream, that show up in someone infected with the hep C virus. If you have a positive HCV antibody test, youll then be given a follow-up HCV RNA test to learn whether you have an active infection.
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