Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Today, most people become infected with the virus by sharing needles or other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs.
Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic:
- Acute hepatitis C is a short-term infection. The symptoms can last up to 6 months. Sometimes your body is able to fight off the infection and the virus goes away. But for most people, an acute infection leads to chronic infection.
- Chronic hepatitis C is a long-lasting infection. If it is not treated, it can last for a lifetime and cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and even death.
The acute symptoms are very similar to other viral infections.
- a fever
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- nausea or vomiting
- dark urine
- clay-colored stool
- joint pain
- jaundice, rarely
Who is at risk ?
- Have injected drugs
- Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
- Have been on kidney dialysis
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Have been in contact with blood or infected needles at work
- Have had tattoos or body piercings
- Were born to a mother with hepatitis C
- Have HIV/AIDS
- Have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months
- Have had a sexually transmitted disease
Can be prevented?
There is no vaccine. 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.