What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C Virus, or HCV, is a virus that infects liver cells and causes inflammation of the liver. HCV is chronic in most cases, meaning it does not go away without medical treatment. 

How is hepatitis C transmitted?

Hepatitis C is transmitted mainly through blood-to-blood contact, and sometimes through sexual contact, especially among gay and bisexual men. 

What activities allow the transmission of hepatitis C?

  • Sharing needles, cookers, cotton, water, or any other works or equipment to inject drugs with someone who is infected with hepatitis C.
  • Sharing needles or inks for tattooing or piercing with someone who is infected with hepatitis C.
  • Receiving hepatitis C-infected blood or blood products before 1992.
  • Exposure to a hepatitis C-infected individual’s blood through needle stick, blood splash to the eyes, mouth, or broken skin.
  • Through sexual contact—primarily receptive anal sex among gay and bisexual men

Is hepatitis C sexually transmitted?

The risk of acquiring hepatitis C through sexual contact is low because hepatitis C is not found in semen or vaginal fluid. However, it can be transmitted sexually when there is exposure to blood, usually during rough receptive anal sex or fisting.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

Generally, patients do not develop symptoms of chronic infection with hepatitis C until they have extensive scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Some individuals, however, may have fatigue and other non-specific symptoms in the absence of cirrhosis. Hepatitis C symptoms can be mild or nonexistent, so it's not unusual for someone who has the virus to be unaware of it. The only way to determine if you have hepatitis C is to get the blood test: a hepatitis C antibody.

What if I test positive for hepatitis C?

The first test for hepatitis C is an antibody test that shows whether you have ever been exposed to the virus. If the antibody test is positive, the next step is to determine whether you have chronic infection with a viral load test (HCV RNA). If the viral load is positive, a genotype test is performed to determine the type of virus you are infected with, information that determines the choice of therapy. Treatment options are available that will cure hepatitis C in more than 90% of people. To discuss a hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment options please make an appointment by calling 989-8200.


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