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.)