Hepatitis C – Symptoms, Prevention

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a liver disease caused by a virus.  Hepatitis C is a different virus from Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B.  It causes long term liver damage by causing scarring of the liver (Cirrhosis) and in a small percentage of infected people, can lead to liver cancer.

HCV is spread when people share blood or body fluids containing blood.  To get Hepatitis C you must share blood or body fluids containing blood with a person who has the disease.

Examples of high risk behavior are:

  • Sharing needles or other injection equipment to do injection drugs.
  • Sharing needles, ink or other bloody equipment for tattooing or body piercing.
  • Sharing razors, toothbrushes, nail scissors or other personal hygiene items that maybe contaminated with blood
  • Receiving infected blood or blood products before 1990.
  • Needle-stick injuries in health care.

Most people who become infected with Hepatitis C feel quite healthy and have no symptoms, but they can spread the infection to others.  These people may become ill. Some symptoms of Hepatitis C may include:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite (don’t feel like eating)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Yellow appearance to the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • Clay colored or white stool
  • Tea colored urine

How to Prevent HCV Transmission:

The only sure way to prevent the spread of HCV (not catch Hepatitis C) is by abstaining from (not doing) risk behaviors.  For example: not sharing injection drug equipment and not sharing razors. You can reduce the risk of Hepatitis C infection by:

  • Use of clean needle every time you inject yourself (use needle exchange program)
  • Do not share toothbrushes, razors, nail scissors and any personal hygiene items that may be contaminated with blood
  • Always practice safe sex by using condoms during sexual intercourse (oral vaginal, anal)
  • Ensure that tattooing and body piercing establishments follow the right steps to prevent blood borne infections
  • If you are doing your own tattooing/body piercing, do not share needles and/or equipment (E.g. Ink, gauze, etc.)