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Hepatitis C

Fact Sheet Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF)43KB

What is Hepatitis C?

  • The hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is one of several viruses that can cause hepatitis, a serious inflammation of the liver.
  • Complications of hepatitis include chronic liver disease, liver cancer, and liver failure.
  • Hepatitis C was first identified in 1989, before then it was known as Non A - Non B Hepatitis. 
  • Since 1994, all blood donations have been screened for Hepatitis C.

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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.
  • Symptom include:
    • fatigue (most common)
    • lack of appetite
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • itchiness
    • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
    • joint and muscle aches

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What is a chronic carrier?

  • 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.

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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)

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How do I know if I have hepatitis C?

  • A blood test can detect hepatitis C. 
  • You should discuss testing with a health care professional (nurse, doctor, exchange worker) if you have risk factors (e.g., needle sharing, multiple sex partners). 
  • If you test positive your doctor may refer you to a specialist. A blood test should also be done for Hepatitis B.

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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 razors or tooth brushes
  • always using a condom and practicing safer sex

Routine Practices  

  • 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
    • and wash your hands thoroughly

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  • Liver External Link  

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