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Hepatitis C

What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is the most common, long-lasting bloodborne (spread through contaminated blood) infection in the U.S. Hepatitis C infection causes inflammation or swelling of the liver. Hepatitis C is a “silent” disease, meaning it does not usually show symptoms until very late. The first six months of infection is known as acute Hepatitis C. It is possible to clear a Hepatitis C infection and stop it from progressing if it is discovered early. After six months of infection, Hepatitis C progresses to the chronic stage (chronic Hepatitis C) and becomes a serious disease that may lead to liver failure, liver cancer and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 2.7 million Americans have chronic Hepatitis C.

Are there symptoms hepatitis C?
Most people with acute hepatitis C have no symptoms. When hepatitis C symptoms develop, it can feel like the flu. You may feel tired, not feel very hungry, vomit, have belly pain, and your skin and eyes can turn yellowish. Chronic hepatitis C often has no signs until liver damage occurs, which may take many years. Chronic hepatitis C symptoms are serious and can cause liver problems like bone pain, abdominal pain, excessive bleeding, weight issues, and other signs of poor liver function.

How do you get hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is spread by contact with an infected person’s blood.  This can happen through sharing needles or accidental needle sticks.  It’s possible to contract hepatitis C through sexual activity, although this probably does not happen often. As this virus is spread through blood, people wonder if they can get it from a mosquito bite. The answer? No. There are no known cases worldwide of hepatitis C spread through mosquitos.

How do I get tested for hepatitis C?
The hepatitis C Surface Antibody Test (Anti-HBs) is a blood test that looks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. What does this mean?  If you have been exposed to the virus, your body will make antibodies to fight the virus. The hepatitis C Test is simple – one quick blood draw taken by our trained staff and you’ll be on your way.

When your hepatitis C Test results are ready, we’ll put you in touch with a physician on the phone. Depending on your situation, he or she will advise you on next steps and, if necessary, discuss treatment.

Can hepatitis C be treated?
If you have a positive result, there is a chance of what’s known as “false-positive”. In that case, your doctor may want to run another test to confirm the results. If your second test comes back positive, your doctor will decide the best way to fight the virus. Acute hepatitis C may go away on its own. Chronic hepatitis C may be treated with antiviral medication to stop the virus from getting worse.

What if I don’t get treated for hepatitis C?
If you have hepatitis C and don’t know it, it can get worse. Without symptoms, the only way to know if you’ve been infected is to get tested. Chronic hepatitis C can lead to liver failure and death if it’s not treated. And, unlike Hepatitis B, there is no vaccine to prevent against hepatitis C.

How can I prevent hepatitis C?
As with all STDs, use a condom every time you have sexual activity. Don’t share needles, razor blades, or toothbrushes with an infected person. Who is at an increased risk for hepatitis C?

  • Healthcare workers and people who work with blood.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People who have sex with multiple partners.
  • People who have an STD.
  • IV drug users.
  • People who get tattoos or piercings with non-sterile techniques.