Hepatitis C

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver. The long-term health risks can be very serious, due to the prospect of liver damage. Symptoms, when present, are similar to those of hepatitis B infection, but in many cases, the person will be unaware they are infected.

How is hepatitis C transmitted?

  • Blood-to-blood contact, i.e. sharing of contaminated drug injecting equipment
  • Contaminated blood products

What happens if somebody has hepatitis C?

Eighty percent of people with this liver disease will develop chronic hepatitis C. They carry the virus and can infect others. After 15 to 20 years, people with chronic hepatitis C can develop liver cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis involves damage to the liver caused by scar tissue which prevents the liver from functioning. In extreme cases, people may die. Hepatitis C carriers also run a higher risk of developing liver cancer.
People infected with hepatitis C can take medication. Some can never be fully cured and the treatment can cause serious side effects. A specialist usually decides whether such medication will be helpful.

How can you avoid infection?

  • Safer injecting techniques
  • Use of “universal precautions” when handling body fluids
  • There is currently no vaccine available to prevent hep. C

You cannot become infected with hepatitis C through normal daily social contact.