Questions For Your Doctor
When you visit the doctor, you may want to ask questions to get the information you need to manage your hepatitis C. If you can, have a family member or friend take notes. You might ask:
Who Can Be Treated For Hepatitis C
Treatment decisions should be made by both you and your provider. Current treatments for hepatitis C are very successful and can cure most people of the virus.
Sometimes The Infection Goes Away On Its Own
Acute hepatitis is C is a short-term illness that occurs within the first six months after being exposed to the virus. Like the human papillomavirus , early acute hepatitis C can clear on its own without treatment this happens about 25% of the time.
However, it’s more likely that the virus will remain in your body longer than six months, at which point it’s considered to be chronic hepatitis C infection.
“Being younger or a woman tends to be a factor in whether the virus clears on its own, and genetics may play a role,” Reau says. “But we can’t determine with certainty which people are certain to clear the infection and which aren’t.”
You May Like: Can You Get Hepatitis C From Your Own Blood
Pregnancy And Hepatitis C
The new hepatitis C medicines have not been tested in pregnancy.
You should not become pregnant while taking treatment as it could be harmful to unborn babies.
If you’re pregnant, you must delay treatment until after your baby is born.
Speak to your doctor before starting hepatitis C treatment if you’re planning to become pregnant in the near future.
You’ll need to wait several weeks after treatment has ended before trying to get pregnant.
Women taking ribavirin should use contraception during treatment and for another 4 months after the end of treatment.
Men taking ribavirin should use a condom during treatment and for another 7 months after the end of treatment. This is because semen can contain ribavirin.
If you become pregnant during treatment, speak to your doctor as soon as possible to discuss your treatment options.
How Likely Am I To Become Infected With Hepatitis C From A Family Member Living In The Same House
Household transmission of hepatitis C is extremely rare. Fewer than 1 in 1,000 family members or close acquaintances becomes infected each year through common, nonsexual contact with hepatitis C-infected persons.
There are many possible ways by which hepatitis C could be passed from one person to another. Because the virus is carried in the blood, it could be transmitted between household members if a mucous membrane were to come in contact with blood or body fluids containing hepatitis C. Family members sometimes share razors, toothbrushes, or toothpicks, perhaps unknowingly. If an item were contaminated with hepatitis C-infected blood from one person, the virus could be passed to a second person if it were to tear the lining of the mouth or break through the skin.
Although these sorts of possibilities are often discussed as potential ways for hepatitis C to infect family members, such events occur very rarely.
If you aren’t sure of your hepatitis C status, get tested. If you test negative and have lived in a household with an infected family member or close acquaintance, you shouldn’t worry that any more contact will put you at risk.
You May Like: Hepatitis C Is It Contagious Sexually
How Long Does It Last
Hepatitis A can last from a few weeks to several months.
Hepatitis B can range from a mild illness, lasting a few weeks, to a serious, life-long condition. More than 90% of unimmunized infants who get infected develop a chronic infection, but 6%10% of older children and adults who get infected develop chronic hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C can range from a mild illness, lasting a few weeks, to a serious, life-long infection. Most people who get infected with the hepatitis C virus develop chronic hepatitis C.
Who Should Be Vaccinated
- All children aged 1223 months
- All children and adolescents 218 years of age who have not previously received hepatitis A vaccine
People at increased risk for hepatitis A
- International travelers
- Men who have sex with men
- People who use or inject drugs
- People with occupational risk for exposure
- People who anticipate close personal contact with an international adoptee
- People experiencing homelessness
People at increased risk for severe disease from hepatitis A infection
- People with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C
- People with HIV
Other people recommended for vaccination
- Pregnant women at risk for hepatitis A or risk for severe outcome from hepatitis A infection
Any person who requests vaccination
There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.
Don’t Miss: How Is Hepatitis B And C Transmitted
What To Do If You Live With Someone Who Has Hepatitis C
If you live with someone who has hepatitis C, theres no reason to avoid close personal contact. Feel free to touch, kiss, and cuddle.
The most important thing you can do to prevent getting the virus is to avoid contact with the infected persons blood. Blood can be infectious even when its dry. In fact, the virus can live in blood on surfaces for up to three weeks.
Thats why you should take great care when cleaning up blood spills, however small or old they are.
Here are a few tips for dealing with blood:
- If you see blood, assume its infectious.
- If you have to clean or touch a blood spill, wear disposable gloves. Inspect the gloves for tears and holes before using them.
- Mop up using paper towels or disposable rags.
- Disinfect the area with a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
- When finished, dispose of the rags or paper towels in a plastic bag. Remove the gloves carefully and dispose of them as well.
- Wear gloves if you have to touch used bandages or menstrual products that werent disposed of properly.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with blood, even if you wore gloves.
Some personal care items can sometimes contain a small amount of blood. Dont share things like a toothbrush, razor, or manicure scissors.
If you think you may have been exposed to the virus, contact your doctor to find out when you can be tested. Early treatment can help prevent serious liver damage.
Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. But you can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by
- Not sharing drug needles or other drug materials
- Wearing gloves if you have to touch another person’s blood or open sores
- Making sure your tattoo artist or body piercer uses sterile tools and unopened ink
- Not sharing personal items such toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers
- Using a latex condom during sex. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
How Do I Tell Someone I Have Hepatitis C
Informing someone that you have hepatitis C can be hard. Most people know little about this disease. You can start with how you found out about your diagnosis. It helps to be prepared with educational materials on HCV, and to be aware of the ways that people can and cannot be infected. For example, it is very rare for HCV to be transmitted during sex. Be sure to tell anyone who may be directly affected, such as:
You may want to encourage others to be tested for HCV if they have similar risk factors.
When Should You Start Treatment For Hepatitis C
With the new antiviral drugs for hepatitis C, it’s now recommended that everyone with hepatitis C shouldn’t wait to be treated, regardless of liver disease severity.
The aim of this treatment is a cure sometimes described as a sustained virologic response. This means that no hepatitis C virus is detectable in your blood six months after youve finished treatment.
Also Check: Do You Die From Hepatitis C
It’s Different Than Hepatitis A And B
Each form of hepatitis has its own specific virus that spreads and is treated differently. “Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver, or that the virus has an affinity for hurting the liver,” Reau says.
- Hepatitis A is an acute, short-term infection that often does not require treatment.
- Hepatitis B hides deep in the body and, like hepatitis C, is treated in a variety of ways, from antiviral medications to liver transplants.
“The viruses are different, but all of them should be taken very seriously since they can lead to significant liver disease and even death,” she adds.
Can I Drink Alcohol Once In A While If I Have Hepatitis C
Alcohol can clearly contribute to worsening liver disease. You must discuss with your health care provider if any amount of alcohol is safe for you.
Alcohol can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. If you have any underlying liver condition, such as hepatitis C or hepatitis B or damage from long-term alcohol use, your liver will be more sensitive to alcohol. When you have hepatitis C virus, alcohol on top of the hepatitis C can cause the inflammation and scarring to be worse, and overall damage to the liver may happen much faster when you drink alcohol.
Here is some helpful information about alcohol and hepatitis:
Also Check: Is Hepatitis A Virus Or Bacteria
How Can I Protect Myself And Others From Hepatitis C
Know what is safe!
Hepatitis C is NOT passed by things like food, drinking water, dishes, clothes, hugs, kisses, coughs, toilet seats, or swimming pools.
Know how hepatitis C is passed
Hepatitis C is passed when the blood of a person with hepatitis C gets into another persons bloodstream. This is called blood-to-blood contact.
Blood-to-blood contact can happen even when the amount of blood is so small you cannot see it.
To prevent blood-to-blood contact, take the following steps:
- If you take street drugs, use new equipment every time, such as needles, water, spoons, cookers, crack pipes, or straws.
- Before you get a piercing or a tattoo, ask if the ink and equipment are new. If the equipment is used, ask if it has been sterilized.
- Use only your own personal items, such as razors, toothbrushes and nail clippers.
Hepatitis C can be passed through unsterilized medical or dental equipment. But it is rare for unsterilized medical or dental equipment to be used in Canada.
You can be re-infected with hepatitis C after you are cured of hepatitis C .
Can hepatitis C be passed through sex?
Sexual transmission of hepatitis C is not common. Transmission through heterosexual sex is very rare and transmission through condomless anal sex between men is rare. The risk increases when certain factors are present, such as HIV, sexually transmitted infections, sex where blood is present and chemsex.
Preventing The Spread Of Hepatitis C
There is no vaccine available to prevent a person from being infected with hepatitis C. Recommended behaviours to prevent the spread of the virus include:
- Always use sterile injecting equipment. This can be accessed from your local needle and syringe program service.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, nail files or nail scissors, which can draw blood.
- If you are involved in body piercing, tattooing, electrolysis or acupuncture, always ensure that any instrument that pierces the skin is either single use or has been cleaned, disinfected and sterilised since it was last used.
- If you are a healthcare worker, follow standard precautions at all times.
- Wherever possible, wear single-use gloves if you give someone first aid or clean up blood or body fluids.
- Although hepatitis C is not generally considered to be a sexually transmissible infection in Australia, you may wish to consider safe sex practices if blood is going to be present, or if your partner has HIV infection. You may wish to further discuss this issue and personal risks with your doctor.
Recommended Reading: How Do You Get Hiv And Hepatitis
Safety Precautions At Home Work And During Sex
At home, work, and school, there are also precautions people can take to reduce the risk of spreading HCV. These include:
- not sharing personal items with others, including toothbrushes, toothpicks, floss, razors, or nail clippers, even if they look clean
- not sharing pierced jewelry items with others, or anything else that enters the skin
- completely covering open wounds until they heal
- avoiding activities that could expose someone to blood while there is an open wound, such as sores in the mouth or cracked lips, which would make kissing risky
- cleaning up blood spills immediately by wearing gloves and disinfecting using a bleach solution
- safely disposing of items used to clean up blood, to dress wounds, or during menstruation in sealed bags
- washing the skin and hair of children who have become exposed to blood containing HCV
Safe sex practices for people with HCV include:
- using barrier methods, such as condoms and dental dams, during sex
- avoiding rough sex and behaviors that could expose someone to blood
- avoiding sex during menstruation
If people have been in a long-term monogamous relationship, they may not need to change their sexual practices. However, people who are HCV-negative should attend routine screenings if they have sex with someone who is HCV-positive.
If a person uses needles regularly, they should:
Always get tattoos, piercings, and injections such as hormone, steroid, Botox, or dermal fillers from a licensed professional.
Treating Hepatitis C Together With Hiv
If youre HIV positive and have hepatitis C infection, then you must receive care from a doctor skilled in the treatment of both HIV and hepatitis.
Due to the new direct-acting antiviral drugs, people living with HIV and hepatitis C co-infection can be treated with most of the same hepatitis C drug regimens as HIV-negative people. Research has shown that cure rates are the same.
Unlike treatment for HIV, hepatitis C treatment is not for life. New drugs to treat hepatitis C only need to be taken for up to 3 months.
Read Also: How To Find Out If You Have Hepatitis
How Do People Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C virus is found in the blood of people with HCV infection. It enters the body through blood-to-blood contact.
Until reliable blood tests for HCV were developed , people usually got hepatitis C from blood products and blood transfusions. Now that blood and blood products are tested for HCV, this is no longer the typical means of infection.
Currently, people usually get hepatitis C by sharing needles for injection drug use. An HCV-infected woman can pass the infection to her baby during birth. It is also possible to get hepatitis C from an infected person through sexual contact, an accidental needlestick with a contaminated needle, or improperly sterilized medical, acupuncture, piercing, or tattooing equipment.
How Can I Prevent Spreading Hepatitis C To Others
If you have hepatitis C, follow the steps above to avoid spreading the infection. Tell your sex partner you have hepatitis C, and talk with your doctor about safe sex practices. In addition, you can protect others from infection by telling your doctor, dentist, and other health care providers that you have hepatitis C. Dont donate blood or blood products, semen, organs, or tissue.
Recommended Reading: Most Common Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
Work Closely With Your Care Team
To understand how hepatitis C is affecting your body, your doctor will likely run a number of tests. First up is determining which genotype, or strain, of the virus you have, which will influence your treatment options, Fenkel says.
We also need to know how much damage has been done to the liver, he says. I usually recommend a good abdominal ultrasound to check for cirrhosis. In people without cirrhosis, I recommend a test to estimate the amount of fibrosis, or scarring, in the liver, such as a liver elastography.
If you have to delay your hepatitis C treatment for example, if youre waiting on approval from your health insurance provider make sure youre tracking your condition with the proper tests, Fenkel says. These include blood tests such as liver enzyme tests and regular ones that monitor your viral load. Rarely, hepatitis C treatments can reactivate a persons previous exposure to hepatitis B, and some people may require additional monitoring for this, he says.
Work with your care team to ensure you are getting tested regularly, both before and during treatment. Ask your doctor to go over the results of your labs and what they mean after every test, and keep your own records to stay on top of your care.