Hepatitis C

Is a virus that can infect and damage the liver.

How is it passed on?

  • Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through blood to blood contact, for example, sharing needles when injecting drugs and through sharing other drug equipment, use of unsterilised equipment when getting a tattoo/body piercing, or sharing razors or toothbrushes that are contaminated with infected blood

  • it can be transmitted through sex, although this is very rare and can be prevented by using a condom.

How to avoid Hepatitis C?

  • never share any drug-injecting equipment with other people (not just needles but also syringes spoons and filters)

  • don’t get tattoos or piercings from unlicensed places

  • don’t share razors, toothbrushes or towels that might be contaminated with blood

  • use a condom, especially with a new partner, for anal and oral sex. You can order male and female condoms here

  • there is no vaccination for Hepatitis C.

Testing and treatment

The Fettle test kit

The test for Hepatitis C is a blood sample.

You can watch the blood test instruction video or follow this link to see the instruction leaflet that comes with the kit.

It is best to wait 4 weeks after potential exposure to take a Hepatitis C test, but in some cases it can take up to 6 months for the infection to show in results.

Treatment

Hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medicines designed to stop the virus from multiplying inside the body and to prevent liver damage. The sooner the treatment begins after exposure to the Hepatitis C virus, the more likely it is to succeed.

If the virus is cleared with treatment, you are not immune to future infections of Hepatitis C.

Telling your partner

If you are diagnosed with Hepatitis C, you should tell anyone who you may have had blood to blood contact with, or unprotected sex with, since you became infected. In some cases this may be hard to work out, so it is best to discuss the risks for any contacts with a clinician. Previous partners may have the virus without knowing it, so it is important for them to get tested.

Symptoms and long term effects

During the early stage of infection, there may not be any symptoms. If symptoms do develop, this is usually within the first six months after infection and they can easily be mistaken for another condition.

CommonRare
Short term

Flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and loss of appetite, high temperature, feeling tired all the time, depression, loss of appetite and weight loss, sickness and diarrhoea. One in five will experience yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice).

Long term

Some people can clear the virus at the early stage of infection, but four out of five people will not be able to fight off the infection. This leads to a long term infection called chronic hepatitis.

Hepatitis C can lead to problems with your liver, including scarring (cirrhosis), often years after catching the infection.

Questions

It is best to wait 4 weeks after potential exposure to take a Hepatitis C test, but in some cases it can take up to 6 months for the infection to show in results.

Antiviral medication usually acts to prevent a virus from multiplying.

No, not in men or women.

They will be able to tell if you have symptoms of infection but not if you don’t. However it is important that you tell your partner since you may pass or have passed the infection to them.