Algoma Public Health
- Hepatitis C
What is it?
- A viral disease that affects the liver.
- Most people who develop Hepatitis C will carry the virus for many years, possibly life (carrier).
- Some people who carry the virus will also develop cirrhosis (scars on the liver) or liver cancer. What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of hepatitis C may appear 2 weeks - 6 months after exposure to the hepatitis C virus. Most people (75%) have no signs of the illness at all after being exposed to the virus.
- fatigue (most common)
- lack of appetite
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- joint and muscle aches
Most people infected with hepatitis C become chronic carriers. They have the virus in their blood for the rest of their life and can spread it to others, Most carriers remain symptoms-free for many years. However, some people do become sick because of ongoing damage to their liver.
How is Hepatitis C Spread?
Hepatitis C is found in the blood of an infected person, but can be found in other body fluids that contain blood. The virus enters the body through a break in the skin or through mucous membrane such as the mouth.
Hepatitis C can be spread by:
- Sharing needles, or any other equipment used for injecting drugs, even once.
- Body/ear piercing, tattooing, etc. with unsterilized equipment.
- Accidentally being stuck with a used needle.
- Having unprotected sex with a hepatitis C positive partner (low risk).
How do I know if I have hepatitis C?
A blood test can detect hepatitis C. Testing can be order through your health care provider or sexual health clinic. You should discuss testing with a health care professional if you have risk factors (e.g., needle sharing, multiple sex partners). If you test positive your health care provider may refer you to a specialist. A blood test should also be done for Hepatitis B.
How do I protect myself from getting hepatitis C?
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. To protect yourself against the virus you must avoid all direct contact with other people's blood and body fluids by:
- not sharing needles/syringes or other injection equipment, including water, cotton, mix, etc.
- having only a professional do a tattoo or body/ear piercing. Never share any equipment used for tattooing or body/ear piercing.
- not sharing personal care items suck as razors or tooth brushes.
- always using a condom and practice safer sex.
When exposed to blood in a first aid situation, always:
- wear gloves
- clean and disinfect blood-contaminated surfaces
- dispose of blood-contaminated articles in a plastic container
- was your hands thoroughly
Date of Creation: June 1, 2015
Last Modified: Oct 28, 2015