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HealthInfo Canterbury

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a virus that causes inflammation of your liver. The virus is carried in blood and can only be passed to someone through blood-to-blood contact. This happens when the blood of an infected person enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person. The most common way this occurs is through sharing needles.

People at risk of getting hepatitis C include those who:

Preventing hepatitis C

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C but there are things you can do to avoid becoming infected and spreading the hepatitis C infection.

Hepatitis C is not spread through food or close personal contact, such as handshaking, hugging and kissing. It is spread when the blood from an infected person enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person. To avoid this happening:

Symptoms of hepatitis C

Many people with hepatitis C do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected.

If they do have symptoms, they can appear anytime from two weeks to six months after infection. In some cases it can take many years for symptoms to develop.

Symptoms may include:

Diagnosing hepatitis C

The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested. This involves two blood tests:

You can get tested at your GP surgery or at the Hepatitis C Community Clinic.

Treating hepatitis C

Hepatitis can lead to liver cancer if it is not treated. Treatments for hepatitis C can cure more than 90% of people infected with the virus after eight to 12 weeks of treatment. The names of these treatments are glecaprevir and pibrentasvir (Maviret) and ledipasvir with sofosbuvir (Harvoni).

While you are taking treatment for hepatitis C it’s also important to look after the health of your liver by:

It can also help to stay a healthy weight, not smoke and get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. This is because being overweight, smoking and having more then one type of hepatitis can increase the chances of your liver being damaged if you have hepatitis C.

You are considered cured when no hepatitis C virus is found in your blood three months after your treatment has finished.

Your GP may be able to get funding to help with your treatment costs. Check with your GP.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021.


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Review key: HIHEP-49691