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HEP C 101

HEP C 101

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver.  It is also the name of viral infections that affect the liver.  Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that can range in severity from a mild illness to a serious lifelong illness that attacks the liver.  Acute Hepatitis C virus is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the virus.  For most people, it leads to chronic infection. This infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the virus remains in a person’s body.  It can last a lifetime and lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

How is Hepatitis C spread?

It is usually spread when blood from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person.  The most common means of transmission is through sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.  It can also be spread if you were born to an infected mother; sharing personal care items like razors, toothbrushes, etc.; or sexual contact.   It can also be spread when blood that contains the virus is on a surface and is touched by another person who is not infected; or when a person touches and contaminates something while the blood is on their fingers or hands.

Who is mostly at risk for Hepatitis C?

  • Current or former Injection drug users
  • Recipients of blood transfusions
  • People who have received tattoos from non-sterile instruments
  • HIV-infected persons
  • Children born to mothers with Hepatitis C
  • Baby boomers born between 1945-1965
  • Sharing personal care items such as razors, toothbrushes, etc. (Anything in contact with blood)
  • Sexual contact

Who should get tested for Hepatitis C?

  • Current or former Injection drug users
  • Recipients of blood transfusions
  • People who have received tattoos from non-sterile instruments
  • HIV-infected persons
  • Children born to mothers with Hepatitis C
  • Baby boomers born between 1945-1965
  • Sharing personal care items such as razors, toothbrushes, etc. (Anything in contact with blood)
  • Sexual contact
    • You have an abnormal liver test or liver disease
  • You received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992.
  • You have been exposed to blood through a needle stick or other sharp object injury.

Can Hepatitis C be treated?

Yes.  New and improved treatments are available that can cure Hepatitis C for most people. However, treatment depends on many different factors, so it is important to talk to a doctor about options. Contact the MAO Wellness Center.

HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV)

Hepatitis C is common among people living with HIV. In the United States, 20 to 30 percent of people living with HIV are co-infected with HCV. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a disease that infects the liver. HCV can cause lifelong infection, and over time it can cause fibrosis (mild to moderate liver scarring), cirrhosis (serious liver scarring), liver cancer, liver failure and death.

Given that HIV attacks the immune system, HIV can worsen Hepatitis C. Not only does HIV increase the risk of liver damage, but it can also speed up the onset of liver damage following infection. It is important for people who are co-infected with HIV and HCV to work closely with their health care providers in order to safely and effectively monitor and treat both conditions.

Want to learn more? Consider these sources:

American Liver Foundation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)