Infectious Diseases

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Hepatitis C

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What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus that can affect the liver. There is currently no vaccine against hepatitis C.

How is it spread?

The hepatitis C virus is carried in the blood, and you can become infected with hepatitis C if you come into contact with the blood of an infected person.

What are the symptoms?

Most people with hepatitis C have no symptoms and may feel quite healthy. Symptoms, when present, can be mild and may include feeling tired, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain or jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin).

Who is at risk for hepatitis C?

High Risk

  • Sharing used needles or syringes (for steroid, prescription or street drug use).
  • Sharing other drug-using equipment such as cookers, cotton, crack cocaine and water pipes (even if you only shared them once or briefly).
  • Sharing straws, bills or other utensils used for snorting cocaine or other drugs.
  • Receiving a blood transfusion or blood products before 1992.
  • Needle-stick injuries.
  • Tattooing, piercing or acupuncture with equipment that may have been improperly sterilized.
  • Many of the risk factors listed above are also associated with HIV.

Lower Risk

  • Sexual activity that includes contact with blood or exchange of blood.
  • An expectant mother carrying the hepatitis C virus can infect her unborn baby.
  • Sharing razors, toothbrushes, tweezers, manicure or pedicure equipment (such as nail clippers).

Can I be tested for hepatitis C?

Blood tests can be done to detect hepatitis C.
People should speak with their health care provider regarding what tests should be ordered and for interpretation of the test results.

What is the treatment for hepatitis C?

People with hepatitis C should speak with their health care provider to assess if treatment is an option.

How can you prevent the spread?

  • Do not share needles or drug-using equipment.
  • Do not share personal items such as razors, toothbrushes, tweezers, manicure or pedicure equipment.
  • Wear protective gloves if you are likely to be in contact with someone else’s blood.
  • Sexual transmission is uncommon, but abstaining, reducing the number of partners and using barriers like condoms can reduce the risk.
  • Get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) check up, especially if you’ve had a new sex partner, more than one sex partner, or suspect you have an infection.
  • Ask your partner(s) to be tested before you have sex.
  • If you are getting a tattoo, piercing, acupuncture or electrolysis make sure that:
    • The service you choose is regulated or inspected.
    • The needle is single-use disposable and has never been used (if you’re getting acupuncture, make sure the needles are sterile).
    • All other equipment is sterile.
  • Consider vaccination for hepatitis A and B.

Am I at risk of spreading hepatitis C to my family?

If hepatitis C is spread within a household, it is most likely due to direct exposure to the blood of an infected household member.

For more information about hepatitis C, please see the following links:

Hepatitis C- Basic Facts
http://www.hepcinfo.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/brochure_1_e.pdf

Hepatitis C- Newly Diagnosed
http://www.hepcinfo.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/brochure_2_e.pdf

Hepatitis C- Treatment Options

 http://www.hepcinfo.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/brochure_3_e.pdf

For data on the incidence of Hepatitis C in Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario, please visit the Hepatitis C page on the health unit’s HealthSTATS site

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