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. The HCV virus 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. 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 to 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 Hepatitis C, it is important to wait six to nine weeks to get tested because that is 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 are living with Hepatitis C and have not yet been treated, ACNL can refer you for treatment. We can work with you to develop a plan to get you on treatment and maintain the full course of treatment. Call (709) 579-8656 or toll-free at 1 (800) 563-1575 or email [email protected] for more information.
Thank you to CATIE (Canada’s source for HIV and hepatitis C information) for providing most of this Hepatitis C education and information. To learn more about CATIE, visit: https://www.catie.ca/en/home.