Hepatitis C

  • Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus.
  • The disease can be range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
  • The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through infected blood and body fluids. This may happen through injection drug use, unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, and the transfusion of infected blood and blood products.
  • In India, 1 out of every 100 individual suffers from Hepatitis C.

What is hepatitis C?

  • Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. This can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness
  • Those in whom the disease resolves by itself within 6 months of occurrence are said to have ‘Acute Hepatitis C’
  • Those in whom the disease is not resolved and becomes lifelong is called ‘Chronic Hepatitis C’.
  • Chronic hepatitis C can cause serious health problems, including serious liver damage, liver cancer, and even death.

 What is the likelihood that acute hepatitis C will become chronic?

  • 3 out of every 4 patients of Hepatitis C tend to develop chronic Hepatitis C infection

How is hepatitis C spread?

  • Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected.
  • Most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to prepare or inject drugs.

People can become infected with the hepatitis C virus through activities as:

  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to prepare or inject drugs
  • Needle stick injuries in health care settings
  • Being born to a mother who has hepatitis C
  • Receiving blood that is not tested for Hepatitis C

Less commonly, a person can also get hepatitis C virus through

  • Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as razors or tooth brushes
  • Having sexual contact with a person infected with the hepatitis C virus
  • Getting a tattoo or body piercing in an unregulated setting

What are the activities that are not associated with the spread of Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C virus is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. It is also not spread through food or water.

Can I be re-infected with hepatitis C virus if I have cleared the virus?
Yes.

Can hepatitis C virus be spread through sexual contact?
Yes, but the risk of transmission from sexual contact is believed to be low. The risk increases for people who have multiple sex partners, have a sexually transmitted disease, or are infected with HIV.

Can you get hepatitis C by getting a tattoo or piercing?
A few major research studies have not shown hepatitis C to be spread through licensed, commercial tattooing facilities. However, transmission of hepatitis C (and other infectious diseases) is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing.

Can hepatitis C be spread within a household?
Yes, but this does not occur very often. If hepatitis C virus is spread within a household, it is most likely a result of direct, through-the-skin exposure to the blood of an infected household member.

Who is at risk for hepatitis C?
Some people who are at increased risk for having hepatitis C, include:

  • Current or former injection drug users, including those who injected only once many years ago
  • Recipients of blood or blood producted that have not been tested for Hepatitis C especially those who have received these before 2001 (guidelines for universal testing came into practice in India after 2001)
  • Recipients of solid organ transplants
  • Hemodialysis patients

People with known exposures to the hepatitis C virus, such as

  • Health care workers after needlestick injuries involving blood from someone who is infected with the hepatitis C virus
  • People with HIV infection
  • Children born to mothers infected with the hepatitis C virus
  • People in prisons
  • People who use intranasal drugs
  • People who received body piercing or tattoos done with instruments that are not cleaned as per standards

Can a person get hepatitis C virus from a mosquito or other insect bite?
No

Can I donate blood if I have tested positive for hepatitis C?
No

What are the symptoms of acute hepatitis C?
People with new (acute) hepatitis C virus infection usually do not have symptoms or have mild symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes)

How soon after exposure to hepatitis C virus do symptoms appear?
In those people who develop symptoms from acute infection, the average time from exposure to symptoms ranges from 2 to 12 weeks. However, most people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus do not develop symptoms.

Can a person spread hepatitis C without having symptoms?
Yes, even if a person with hepatitis C has no symptoms, he or she can still spread the hepatitis C virus to others.

Is it possible to have hepatitis C and not know it?
Yes, many people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus do not know they are infected because they do not look or feel sick.

What are the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C?

  • Most people with chronic hepatitis C virus infection do not have any symptoms or have general, symptoms such as tiredness and depression.
  • Many people eventually develop severe liver damage and liver cancer.