What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) which is found in the blood of infected people. Some people who get hepatitis C may never fully recover and may carry the virus the rest of their lives. Some people become very ill and some have liver failure.
What are the symptoms?
Most people have no symptoms, but can still infect others. If you have hepatitis C, you may have:
- yellowing of the skin and eyes
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- stomach pain
How is hepatitis C spread?
HCV is spread primarily by direct contact with human blood. For example, you may have gotten infected with HCV if:
- You ever injected street drugs, as the needles and/or other drug "works" used to prepare or inject the drug(s) may have had someone else's blood that contained HCV on them.
- You received blood, blood products, or solid organs from a donor whose blood contained HCV.
- You were ever on long-term kidney dialysis as you may have unknowingly shared supplies/equipment that had someone else's blood on them.
- You were ever a healthcare worker and had frequent contact with blood on the job, especially accidental needlesticks.
- Your mother had hepatitis C at the time she gave birth to you. During the birth her blood may have gotten into your body.
- You ever had sex with a person infected with HCV.
- You lived with someone who was infected with HCV and shared items such as razors or toothbrushes that might have had his/her blood on them.
How can you know if you have hepatitis C?
A blood test for HCV can tell if a person has ever been infected.
If infected, what should I do to protect others?
- Do not share tooth brush, razor, or other items that could come in contact with blood.
- Cover open sores or other breaks in your skin.
- Do not donate blood, plasma, body organs, or sperm.
What can a person with Hepatitis C do to protect their liver?
- Stop drinking alcohol.
- See your health care provider regularly.
- Talk to your health care provider before using over-the counter or herbal medicine.
- Get vaccinated against Hepatitis A.
Talk to your health care provider to see if you should get the Hepatitis B vaccine or any other recommended vaccines.