Hepatitis C: A Threat from the Past
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Over time, HCV
can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. Most people who have hepatitis
C don’t have any symptoms for years. Many don’t know that they are infected until
their liver is already damaged.
Are you at risk?
Hepatitis C is spread by contact with the blood of someone who has HCV. These factors
raise your risk for hepatitis C:
Injecting yourself with illegal drugs, even if it was only once or a long time
Receiving a clotting factor to treat a blood-clotting problem before 1987
Having an organ transplant or blood transfusion before July 1992
Coming in contact with blood infected with HCV through a job in the health field
Having hemodialysis for a long time
Living with someone who has HCV and sharing razors, toothbrushes, or other personal
items that may have blood on them
Having sex with someone who has HCV
Women with HCV may also pass the virus to their baby at birth. It’s possible to get
hepatitis C by getting a tattoo or piercing with tools that are not sterilized. You
can’t get hepatitis C through casual contact with someone who has HCV. You can't get
HCV by hugging or kissing someone who is infected.
If you think that you might be at risk, ask your healthcare provider for a test just
to be safe.
Your healthcare provider may decide to do more than one test to make sure of the results
and to see how much your liver has been affected.
A positive result
A healthcare provider who finds that you have hepatitis C may refer you to a liver
specialist for more testing. Some people with hepatitis C develop liver cirrhosis
and liver cancer. But most never have major liver problems.
Infection is most common among those born during 1945-1965. The majority of these
people were probably infected during the 1970s and 1980s when rates were highest.
Healthcare providers usually treat hepatitis C with medicines.
The new medicines are very effective and are all taken by mouth. They work in patients
with early and late stages of disease, and have fewer side effects than ever before.