Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is a liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness, lasting a few weeks, to a serious, lifelong illness. HCV enters the bloodstream and replicates in the liver cells, damaging them in the process. If left untreated, inflammation in the liver replaces healthy cells with scar tissue and the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer increases.
There is no vaccine for HCV; however, treatment stops the virus from replicating in the body and a person can be cured. Cure rates are about 95% and side effects are minimal.
Transmission of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is passed blood to blood. The virus gets into the blood through breaks in the skin or in the lining of the nose and mouth. Hepatitis C can live outside the body for many days. This means that dried blood can also pass the virus. This is why it is important to follow universal precautions and avoid direct contact with bodily fluids.
Testing for Hepatitis C
Testing is the only way to find out if you have hepatitis C. If you think you have been exposed to the virus, it’s important to wait 6-9 weeks to get tested because that’s how long it takes your body to start producing antibodies.
It usually takes two blood tests to tell whether you have hepatitis C. The first test (an antibody test) checks to see if you have ever come into contact with the virus. The second test (a PCR or RNA test) checks to see if you have hepatitis C infection right now.
Treatment for Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be cured. It comes in pill form, has few side effects, and must be taken for 8-12 weeks (depending on the severity of the virus). If you’re living with hepatitis C and have not yet received treatment, we can help you. We work with you to develop an individualized plan to get you on treatment and maintain the full course. Call (709) 579-8656/toll-free at 1 (800) 563-1575 or email [email protected] for more information.
For more information on hepatitis C or related sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) please visit CATIE’s website: https://www.catie.ca/en/home.