HCV Q&A

General Information:

What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges from mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. Hep C is the result of the presence of the Hep C virus, HCV, which is spread primarily through contact with blood of an infected individual.
What is the difference between acute and chronic Hepatitis C?
Acute Hepatitis is a short-term illness that typically occurs within the first 6 months of infection. Without treatment, acute infection leads to chronic illness. Chronic Hepatitis C occurs when Hep C virus remains in a person’s body, i.e. result of acute hepatitis C without diagnosis and treatment. Chronic Hepatitis C can last a lifetime and leads to serious liver problems, including scarring of the liver or liver cancer.

 

Transmission and Exposure:

How is Hepatitis C spread?
Hepatitis C is spread when the blood of an individual with Hep C enters the body of an uninfected individual. Today, most infections are result of sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, Hep C was spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants, because there was no widespread screening of blood supply.
Can Hepatitis C be spread through sexual contact?
Yes, but the risk is low. Although, the risk increases for individuals who have multiple sex partners, have a sexually transmitted disease, engage in rough sex, or are infected with HIV.
How long can Hepatitis C virus survive outside the body?
The Hepatitis C virus can survive outside the body at room temperature, on environmental surfaces, for up to three weeks. Any blood spills should be cleaned using a dilution of one part household bleach to ten parts water and with wearing gloves.
What ways is Hepatitis C not spread?
The virus can not be spread through sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. Nor can it be spread through food or water.

 

Symptoms:

What are symptoms of acute Hepatitis C?
Around 70-80% of people with acute Hep C do to show any symptoms. Some may have mild to severe symptoms including, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, jaundice.
Is it possible to have Hepatitis C and be unaware?
Yes, since many do not show symptoms when they are infected or the symptoms are ignored, many are unaware of their status. Even if symptoms are not visible, the infected individual can still spread Hep C.
What are the symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C?
Most people with chronic Hep C do not show any symptoms. If a person has been infected for many years, his/her liver may be damaged. In many cases, there are no symptoms until liver problems have developed, making the disease deadly.
What are the long-term effects of Hepatitis C?
Of every 100 people infected with HCV, 75-85 people will develop chronic Hep C. Of those 75-85, 60-70 people will continue to develop liver disease, 5-20 people will continue to develop cirrhosis, 1-5 people will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer.